DRS Q&A: Meet the mediators

10th March 2020

James Middleditch

James Middleditch
DRS Mediator

James MiddleditchHow long have you worked as a mediator in Nominet’s DRS?

I have been a non-lawyer mediator at Nominet since 2016 and became a CEDR accredited mediator in 2017. At the time of writing, I was embarking on my 137th case and can have anything from one case to 14 on the go at any one time.

What does the process involve?

Mediation is a procedure in which the parties discuss their dispute with the assistance of an impartial third person (me) to help them reach a settlement. The mediator is a facilitator, but we don’t have any power to impose a resolution to the conflict.

What do you enjoy about being a mediator?

No two mediations are the same and each party will have their own needs from the process. I really enjoy taking that impartial role in the middle and being able to focus in on the salient points of the dispute. Often, there are other issues between the two beyond the domain name, so there is a skill is being able to keep the mediation on track.

What can be the biggest challenge?

Helping individual parties’ transition from very entrenched positions is tough. The biggest challenge is when one party says they are open to mediation, then caveat that with ‘but I tell you now, I am not changing my mind and they are getting nothing!’ Hearing someone close down the chance of negotiation at the first stage increases the challenge, but a gentle explanation of what mediation actually involves often helps to soften their approach.

What have been the most interesting cases over the years?

In general terms (as mediation is completely confidential), the case that gave me the most satisfaction was one involving a large multinational corporation bringing a dispute against a small, one-person business. The Respondent party was convinced that the large, lawyer-filled multinational was destined to win, but the DRS is a fair and transparent process and certain thresholds need to be met, whether you have the top IP lawyers representing you or not. All I will say is that the case did not need to go to an Expert determination and a settlement was reached in mediation which both parties were very happy with.

What has surprised you about being a mediator for the DRS?

The power of emotion. Some of the trickiest cases are those involving ex-partners, whether of the business or the romantic kind. With my impartial mediator hat on, I know it should just be a domain name at the centre of the dispute, but emotions can run high and it’s never just the domain name being disputed.

What is your main job at Nominet and why do you enjoy what you do?

I’ve been here for just shy of 20 years in a variety of positions. A ‘sister’ role to my mediation is in the Customer Resolution Team (CRT), where I support the Front Line Advisors as well as tackling more technical customer queries. I also deal with law enforcement (who may request that we suspend domains being used for criminal activity) and a whole host of other things. Time management is the key, as juggling CRT and mediation can be a challenge, but certainly keeps things interesting.

What skills make a good mediator?

It’s important to be able to wade through often complex cases to identify a good starting point for mediation. You also need a thick skin, as you occasionally take the brunt of an emotional call or email, born out of frustration by one of the mediating parties. In mediation, empathy goes a long way, yet you must always remain impartial – sometimes a tricky balance to strike.

What do you do to switch off outside work?

I build Lego with my son, mainly in a supervisory role so we don’t end up with a lop-sided Hogwarts castle and several spare pieces which are found weeks later. I also regularly lose to my son at every Playstation game, but I can claim to be a level 32 Pokemon Go (I wish!).

Did you know that Nominet’s DRS dealt with complaints about 763 .UK domains in 2018, just 0.0063% of all the domain names on the register? Find out more stats about a year for the DRS in our press release.  

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