A neutral mediator, resolving an issue with a divorcing couple.

Are Mediators Really Neutral? Ask Switzerland

Mediators are the Switzerland of the legal world. Like the small alpine nation, we pledge to remain neutral in the face of conflict. Instead of fighting for one side or another, we like the country, attempt to broker peace deals. However, instead of navigating international conflicts, we at Human Alchemy focus our efforts on resolving family and employment disputes in the greater Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA area. 

Origin Stories 

In today’s world, neutrality sounds impossible. We are politically polarized, income inequality is growing, and global conflict is spreading. But against all odds, Switzerland remains neutral.

According to History.com, “The earliest moves toward Swiss neutrality date to 1515, when the Swiss Confederacy suffered a devastating loss to the French at the Battle of Marignano. Following the defeat, the Confederacy abandoned its expansionist policies and looked to avoid future conflict in the interest of self-preservation. It was the Napoleonic Wars, however, that truly sealed Switzerland’s place as a neutral nation… [A]fter Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the major European powers concluded that a neutral Switzerland would serve as a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria and contribute to stability in the region. During 1815’s Congress of Vienna, they signed a declaration affirming Switzerland’s ‘perpetual neutrality’ within the international community.”

Switzerland hasn’t fought against another country since the treaty was signed, but it does not sit on the international sidelines. The nation has a robust foreign policy presence. It has become known for brokering peace deals between warring nations and terrorist groups and has also helped defuse hostage situations. 

Mediation’s growth in popularity follows the Swiss path. Non-judicial dispute resolution has been around since the beginning of time. It’s mentioned in ancient texts and employed by every mother who wants to stop her kids from bickering, but its official endorsement has been gradual. 

Judges and legislators have slowly come to realize that allowing parties to resolve their disputes outside of court, and then have their agreement endorsed by a judge, saves time and money. The people who remain skeptical of meditation are often attorneys who make their living litigating disputes. They are blinded by a lack of experience with mediation or flat out greed. 

How Neutral is “Neutral?”

During WWII, Switzerland made everyone mad. The Allies were upset the country continued to trade with Nazi Germany, while the Axis powers insisted it was no “accident” that Allied aircraft often violated Swiss airspace with relative impunity. 

Mediators face similar accusations of bias as they work to do their jobs. In order to resolve a family law or employment dispute, a mediator must engage both sides. He or she must hear both sides of the story, and try to find common ground. Both parties often believe the mediator is favoring the other side, but come around when a deal is struck. 

How Does Mediation Work? 

A mediator is not a judge. He or she cannot decide what the right course of action is and order the parties to agree to a settlement. Instead, the mediator works to communicate each party’s concerns to the other and helps them reach an agreement. 

When a deal is struck, it can be approved by the courts. If no resolution is reached, the parties can continue their fight in court or at arbitration. 

Contact Human Alchemy Today To Schedule An Initial Consultation

While people were at first skeptical that Switzerland could stay a neutral country, it has done so for centuries, and in the process established itself as an important player in the world of foreign policy. 

Believing that lawyers can serve as neutral mediators takes a similar leap of faith. The popularity of mediation continues to grow as couples getting divorced and employers/employees see how much better it is to have a say in their future instead of handing their case over to a judge. If you are willing to engage in collaborative negotiations to resolve an employment or family law dispute, Human Alchemy wants to be your Switzerland. Please contact our office today to learn how we can help you resolve your matter successfully.