CAY HILL--Rik Bergman, attorney and partner with BZSE Attorneys-at-Law, is now the country's first and only certified mediator who is going to structurally integrate mediation into his law practice on St. Maarten. Bergman completed his training at the Lime Tree Institute for Mediation in The Netherlands and has already successfully handled four mediation cases to the benefit of all parties involved in disputes.
His certification has added a new dimension to the leading law firm's services to clients – a fully certified mediator. The use of mediation in civil cases is a viable alternative and legal alternative to going to court.
Bergman said mediation is a well proven alternative to a traditional court case. "Both parties play an equal role, and together with the mediator look for a solution that is acceptable for both of them. It promotes reconciliation between the parties, enabling them to maintain or restore a harmonious relationship while preserving their bond of trust."
"It's like being a referee. It's a much different approach from being a lawyer. A mediator is instrumental in working to and achieving the right solution," said Bergman. "In mediation, the focus is not on determining which party is right, but rather on finding a solution that is acceptable to both parties."
Bergman was drawn to pursue studies in mediation after seeing the need for it in the country. He saw first-hand the impact of mediation when he served as dean of the St. Maarten Bar Association. "Mediation was easy to solve disputes. I developed some skills as dean."
"Our judges are overloaded. Mediation helps to bring binding resolutions for parties involved and it is proven that people who choose mediation are very happy after finalization," said Bergman.
The reason for the ultimate satisfaction with the mediation route is that all parties are involved in coming to a resolution, while in a court case, the verdict relies on the judge reviewing the stand point of both sides, often delivered separately.
Unlike a hearing before a court, the parties do not have to go through a lengthy judicial process, since they set the pace for the meetings and the mediation schedule themselves together with the mediator. Mediation can take as little as a few weeks or even a few days.
Bergman said, "There is this idea that mediation is only for family matters, but all civil matters are fit to be dealt with through mediation."
Mediation is suitable for collective bargaining between labour unions and management, governmental issues, workplace disputes, contract disputes, shareholders disputes, real estate disputes, and construction disputes among others.
Mediation is generally more cost efficient compared to litigation, particularly since the parties save the costs of preparing and filing legal documents and serving them to the other party, as well as other costs connected with judicial proceedings.
Mediation is confidential. This means that, apart from the parties involved and the mediator, no one else will get to know the facts of the dispute, how the meetings are conducted, or the outcome of the mediation. This is contrary to litigation, where a judgment is always a public document.
Mediation can be initiated on request by the parties, through the execution of a mediation clause in a contract, or during a judicial proceeding, with the agreement of both parties.
Bergman is one of a dozen attorneys comprising BSZE Law who operate on St. Maarten and Curaçao.