Clients have a right to expect a high level of technical expertise from their lawyers. Beyond this, what distinguishes the excellent from the merely acceptable in mediation advocacy is often the quality of prior preparation.
One salutary tale is that of the mediator who, while practising as a solicitor, acted for one of the world's leading professional gamblers. The gambler concerned made a living taking on all-comers at Blackjack. She became involved in a rights dispute and sought advice on her prospects of succeeding in a legal claim. The solicitor gave his standard line: "You've got a 70 per cent chance of succeeding with the claim, your costs will be X if you win and X if you lose." "Is that it?" she asked. "What kind of a risk assessment is that? I need to know about my opponent – what advice are they getting? What's their personality? Are they gamblers? Will they see this thing through to the end? How do they cope with stress? Will they break under cross-examination? Is their house on the line?" In short, she wanted a full risk assessment of all the relevant circumstances. Litigation was not a gamble she was about to undertake lightly.
The message is: the better informed you are of all the circumstances that might potentially affect the outcome, the better able you are to take advantageous decisions.