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IMI Review of Kenneth Cloke

There are mediators who are sought by parties because they are subject-matter specialists, i.e, with deep expertise in a certain industry or area of law. Others are sought for their ability to connect with parties and bring wisdom and a deep experience in problem-solving to bear upon a dispute. Based on the feedback in his digest, Ken is firmly in the latter camp. Sample size: Ken Cloke is one of the world’s most well-known and busiest mediators, and this feedback was compiled from a sampling of four mediations he conducted between 2000 and 2011. Two of those sampled were from both sides of the same dispute, and at least two of the respondents appear to have been the parties themselves as opposed to counsel who retained him. Because all four respondents gave Ken the highest possible rating in all categories, the purpose of this digest is to provide an indication of how they perceived his approach to mediation and the impact he had on them and their disputes. (One party protested that the IMI scale to rank a mediator’s skill and ability was insufficient: “5 is not enough, there should be a 10 in the scale.”) General approach to mediation: What emerges from the sampled feedback is Ken’s ability to combine a strong sense of “fairness and expertise” and ability to make personal connections to create an environment in which seemingly intractable disputes are resolved. On this, one party commented, “I can’t imagine anybody being better suited for the seemingly unresolvable problem and deadlocked conflict that Ken has really helped us through.” Repeatedly mentioned was his meticulous and attentive character and approach, and deep engagement with the parties during the mediation. One party noted that Ken’s listening skills extend beyond just the words spoken. “He pays 100% attention with all of his senses when he listens to his clients and reads all their body language-which makes them feel understood and validated.” This same party said that by being so attentive to what the parties say and feel, Ken “projects integrity and trustworthiness.” Mediator presence: All of the sample comments in one way or another noted respect for Ken’s deeply empathetic participation in their dispute. One party specifically commented on his “presence” as a “mediating force,” and said he demonstrated “patience and compassion like nothing I have ever experienced.” Suitability of style to types of disputes: The four sampled disputes all appear to be cases where the parties all desired to settle their disputes and appear to have failed in their attempts before appointing Ken. They strongly suggest that his approach would be equally suitable to conflicts between private individuals in family-related matters and complex financial transactions, especially where relationships or relationship issues may be ongoing after the resolution of the conflict. His ability to aid parties in resolving and restructuring their apparently intractable differences led one to regard Ken as, “the first person I will think of consulting in any future problems, business or private, which might benefit from facilitation or guidance.” Perceptions of cost and value: The feedback was consistent in viewing Ken’s fees as “reasonable” or “very reasonable” and more than one sampled respondent had retained Ken previously, confirmation that parties believe they are getting value. One even characterized his fees as “the best money I’ve ever spent.” This was the comment of a party who had used Ken for the first time, having had his name suggested by the opposing party. Disputes that may not be suitable: The feedback sample suggested that Ken’s strength is facilitating resolution of the so-called “impossible” disputes that parties are unable to resolve on their own, whether because emotions run high or the stakes and valuations of positions are irreconcilable. But these are all cases where the parties have failed in their own negotiations and come to the mediation voluntarily in the hope of finding resolution. This approach may not be as suitable where one of the sides is engaging in mediation purely for tactical or dilatory purposes or under court order.

International Mediation Institute, review by Michael McIlwrath, July 20, 2018