Avinder Laroya, accredited mediator, licensed solicitor, chartered Arbitrator (MCIarb), FRSA, is a specialist in international dispute settlements. Based out of London, UK, and Geneva, Switzerland, Avinder is a founding partner of Serenity Law LLP and founded her mediation and conflict management consultancy Minute Mediation in 2020. She uses her expansive background in conflict resolution, litigation, and arbitration to settle both national and international commercial disputes.
Flexibility in Mediation
After obtaining her degree in Law, Avinder became a solicitor in England and Wales and initially practiced in commercial and real estate law. After practicing in transactional law for over a decade Avinder felt it was time for a change of direction and after attending a conference hosted by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce in Sweden, she was fascinated by a talk held by Patricia Shaughnessy, Professor at the University of Stockholm who spoke about the flexibility of arbitration and mediation and how it can assist in a commercial dispute situation. “I found arbitration and mediation to be more party friendly”, Avinder clarifies, “the fact that the parties have a greater say in the process”. At the event in Stockholm, Avinder also heard first hand accounts from refugees from Kurdistan and Iraq who had settled in Sweden on their struggles and how the mediation process has helped their journey.
As court litigation tends to be more stringent and methodical, Avinder was drawn to how mediation took into account the people who were involved in the dispute as much as the legal dispute settlement process. For this reason, Avinder pursued a Master in International Dispute Settlement (MIDS) in Geneva and has been on the journey towards mediation ever since. Avinder admits that “prior to this course I used to think of mediation as some form of negotiation, but during the Masters I saw how useful using mediation can be in facilitating settlements”. Committed to providing expertise in this domain, Avinder became a CEDR accredited mediator for commercial disputes.
“Coming into a different discipline, I became exposed to a whole new world”, Avinder says as she transitioned from lawyer to mediator. As opposed to litigation, mediators must look at behaviors of their clients and how assets affect them while also empowering them to talk about their needs and wants. “There are many triggers to a dispute, and I am interested in unlocking these and understanding how these triggers of conflict and mediation procedures interact in order to bring some sort of harmony”. Avinder explains that in mediation it is not always about the context of the law, but what the people want. As many times participants are hesitant to unveil information because it can be used against them in court, the mediator must work to create a safe environment where information can be shared. Gliding into the mediation domain, Avinder says, “I may have started off as a lawyer, but I’ve become something else now”.
Mediation’s Learning Curve
Avinder opened up her own mediation center, called Minute Mediation in March of 2020. “It was my vision to create a separate brand and identity in order to promote myself as a mediator and conflict management professional as opposed to a lawyer”, she says. Becoming an experienced mediator, Avinder admires its collaborative process. “Sometimes in the middle of mediation, you think it won’t work, but then suddenly there’s a sudden shift and you settle. It’s a learning curve and it makes people think”. Operating both out of Geneva and London, she explains that Switzerland is a perfect country to network for mediation because of its ties to peaceful organizations such as the UN and its history of neutrality. Mediating in multiple countries and sectors also has aided Avinder’s multicultural awareness. “Even countries in Europe are so different culturally, in that one person from one country may view disputes completely different to those from another”, she explains. By understanding one’s cultural context and language, mediators can enable a peaceful dispute resolution process.
While wishing to expand both her mediation network and knowledge, Avinder came across MBBI. “You attract like energy, I suppose. And I was attracted to the like-minded community that MBBI presented”, Avinder smiles. Jumping on board, Avinder joined MBBI in March 2021 and is an active member of the Climate Change Project, MBBI-Europe, and the United Nations Multilateral Working Group. She is currently working on a project in the MBBI-Europe group which will hold a seminar in the coming months to engage with other refugee organizations to share ideas and inform them about MBBI’s work. “Now that we have the MBBI-Europe group, it would be great to support them here in Geneva, to create links between them and other important organizations”, Avinder says.
Future of Mediation
“Mediation as a procedure is ever-evolving”, Avinder begins, “disputes are becoming ever more complex with the advancement of technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence)”. Mediators must be able to adapt to these changes, as disputes will evolve into highly technical cases. Avinder laughs when she says, “maybe in the future we will have to settle disputes between AI and a human”. Although we say this lightly, it is not far from the truth. Avinder points to space exploration becoming a highly technical dispute which will rise in the future as well as cyberattacks. Whereas in litigation lawyers are chosen on the basis of their specific expertise, mediators are most often chosen without regard to such specification. Mediators therefore will have to build their expertise in technical issues outside the mediation process.
Avinder ends with, “My dream is one day not having to explain what a mediator does and that people want to go to a mediator before a lawyer. While it might not be a solution for all disputes, it is appropriate in a lot of cases. It’s important to continue to communicate and understand each other with the advancement of time”.
Article by Emily Shultis, MBBI Writer