Law Society plans mediation clause in property template

Jan 30, 2020 05:50 AM

Singapore

THE Law Society plans to insert a clause into its widely-used property transaction agreement template to make mediation the first port of call for parties to resolve disputes.

Gregory Vijayendran, president of the Law Society, said at the recent opening of the legal year in early January that the organisation intends to revise the Law Society's Conditions of Sale 2012 to include a rule that requires buyer and seller to try resolving their disputes by first mediating through the society.

The Law Society Conditions of Sale are a set of standard terms and conditions designed to facilitate property sale and purchase transactions by defining the common rights and obligations of the vendor and purchaser.

Although it is up to the parties to choose to incorporate the Conditions of Sale into their property transactions, The Business Times understands that the majority of residential property transactions do incorporate the Conditions of Sale by reference in option to purchase and sale and purchase agreements.

Mr Vijayendran told BT that the Law Society is looking at revising the property transaction template document by this quarter.

Thereafter, it may consider facilitating mediation for family disputes as well as personal injuries and property damage claims, by also streaming them into the organisation's mediation scheme.

The Law Society mediation scheme was established in March 2017 and has since received 38 applications, according to the professional organisation. All types of civil disputes are suitable for mediation under the scheme and there is no monetary limit to the dispute.

Mediation is a private dispute resolution process where parties agree to refer their dispute to a mediator, whose role is to assist the parties in arriving at a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. Although the mediator is a neutral third party, he or she is not a judge and does not make any decisions on behalf of the parties.

The mediation process is said to be more cost and time efficient in many instances than other dispute resolution means such as litigation and arbitration. The Law Society does not have ready statistics of the scheme's settlement rate and details on the nature of the disputes, which are typically confidential.

The 70 per cent settlement rate at Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) gives one an idea, though. SMC is a not-for-profit organisation focusing on domestic commercial disputes.

Mr Vijayendran expects the demand for its mediation to grow and also hopes to expand the society's panel of mediators, both in terms of numbers and expertise.

He sees mediation as one of the promising areas for lawyers to grow their practice in. Further, the skill sets of a mediator in bringing people together to resolve their disagreements are portable, he added.

The professional organisation is thus driving efforts to help members harness potential development areas in mediation. It will form a dedicated mediation committee to tap potential development areas, with seasoned international mediator Lim Tat and experienced medical litigator Kuah Boon Theng Senior Counsel driving the committee.

This comes as mediation is seen as a big piece for the legal profession, especially when Singapore has been in a leading position in attracting mediation.

Mr Vijayendran said the signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation in August last year, increasing globalisation and growing appetite for an Asian-flavoured flexible dispute resolution option, are factors that might lead to greater global and regional demand for mediation.

The Singapore Convention on Mediation is an international treaty signed by 51 countries and aims to promote the use of mediation in settling cross-border commercial disputes.