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Interview with Stefano Cardinale Managing Partner at Bridge Mediation Italy
Interviews

Interview with Stefano Cardinale Managing Partner at Bridge Mediation Italy

Bar & Bench

Stefano Cardinale is the managing partner and co-founder of Bridge Mediation Italy and also the Academic Director of an LLM in International Law and Trade Law at the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía. In this brief conversation, Stefano speaks of the merits of mediation, the similarities between Italians and Indians and what it takes to be a good mediator.

Stefano Cardinale is the managing partner and co-founder of Bridge Mediation Italy and also the Academic Director of an LLM in International Law and Trade Law at the Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economía. In this brief conversation, Stefano speaks of the merits of mediation, the similarities between Italians and Indians and what it takes to be a good mediator.

Bar & Bench: First of all, thank you for speaking to Bar & Bench. A few words about you and what brings you to GNLU?

Stefano Cardinale: Back in 2006 I got in touch with Mr. Bimal Patel, present Director of GNLU when I was Academic Director of an LLM on International Law and Trade Law in ISDE (at that time University of Barcelona). When Mr. Bimal Patel was appointed as GNLU Director and started the International Law programme, he contacted me to give lectures on the recently approved European Union Directive on Mediation for Civil and Commercial disputes and on the controversial Italian law on mediation. Since 2010 I’m regularly teaching at GNLU in the International Law Programme.

B&B: How has your experience been so far at GNLU?

Stefano Cardinale: I think it’s a very dynamic and modern college and this is confirmed by the fact they decided to start an international law programme. Both faculties and students have always been very kind to me and very open to cultural exchange, so that I could also learn a lot about Indian culture. Students are very collaborative and they participate a lot during the sessions, mostly because I always try to give a practical approach to my lectures.

Bar & Bench: Coming to mediation, do you think there is a significant difference between civil law and common law countries when it comes to the approach to mediation?

Stefano Cardinale: Yes definitely, there are some important differences about parties approach to mediation. In common law countries, as we have experienced in many years of practicing mediation in our San Diego office, parties have a more flexible approach to possible solutions, and lawyers are more interests oriented than in civil law countries. In civil law countries, as we could experience in our 30 Italian offices, lawyers are more stuck on their clients rights, sometimes without considering their real interests, so mediators generally have a harder time to make them switch from their positions to their real interests.

Bar & Bench: Have you seen a change in the perception of courts towards ADR in civil law countries? Are courts and/or clients more keen on choosing ADR measures? Is the enforcement of such measures a problem?

Stefano Cardinale: After the 2008 EU Directive about mediation as a tool to solve civil and commercial disputes, all European member states were forced to implement mediation in their internal legislations. That changed the perception of governments about mediation, and in 2010 the Italian Government came out with a law that establishes mandatory mediation as a pre-condition to file a law suit in many civil and commercial disputes such as land disputes, real estate disputes, property disputes, community disputes, inheritance disputes, landlord – tenant disputes, bank and insurance contracts disputes, medical malpractice, civil liability for defamation in press and media, civil responsibility for motor vehicles and boat accidents. At first Italian lawyers opposed firmly to this law, but now that citizens are experiencing the process, which has been very helpful for many of them, mediation culture is spreading and judges are quite favourable to this tool, in such way that even when mediation is not mandatory they often suggest parties, at any stage of the trial, to go through the process. Enforcement of mandatory mediation in Italy is experiencing some difficulty as all mandatory processes do, but after the introduction of monetary sanctions for those parties who don’t attend mediation and incentives for those who attend it, the rate of attendance is getting higher every day. 

B&B:What do you think makes a good mediator?

Stefano Cardinale: The capability of listening to people, but not just passive listening. Active listening is one of the most important skills of a mediator, because at the end of the day everybody wants to be listened and nowadays, at least in the western cultures, there are very few people who have the time and will to listen. As a lawyer I noticed that when I’m able to listen to my clients, they are much more open to me and we manage to work out good strategies. Being able to acknowledge a party’s suffering and frustration caused by the conflict comes along with that.

Another important skill is being able to highlight party’s real interests and separate them from their positions, in order to find more creative solutions to the dispute.

Bar & Bench: You have written on the effects of different cultures on mediation. In this regard, any peculiarities that you have observed about Indian cultures and traditions?

Stefano Cardinale: I could notice that Indian culture is very similar to Italian culture in many ways, as for example the way people are eager to talk and get the attention of the audience during a conversation and/or mediation. For these reasons I believe that many of the techniques that our mediators need to implement in Italy would be very useful here.

Moreover Indian culture is a very destiny oriented culture, so some issues in a mediation must be addressed according to that.

Indian culture is also a very collaborative culture, in which the team makes the difference, so negotiators should be always aware of that, and accordingly propose agreements which fulfil the needs of the group and not only of the individual.

Bar & Bench: Do you think Indian legal education places enough stress on ADR?

Stefano Cardinale: I believe ADR is a subject that is sufficiently known and taught in law schools, but probably ADR methods should be applied more frequently at a practical stage to solve civil and commercial disputes. Moreover, teaching conflict management and cross culture negotiation in schools could be an easy way to spread mediation culture in the younger generation, who will be dealing with conflicts in future. At the end of the day, India is a perfect country to apply cross cultural negotiation because it is made of people from different cultures, backgrounds, languages and religions.

B&B: Lastly, any words of advice for law students who might be interested in pursuing ADR mechanisms as a career?

Stefano Cardinale: They should get trained as professional mediators by experienced training providers and start applying conflict management techniques in their daily lives. When you see that it [the conflict management techniques] really work and that you can manage conflicts in a more effective way, than you start believing in the concept and you are much more successful in selling your own mediator’s profession. That’s what happened to me.

(This interview was conduced by GNLU student Anuroop Omkar for Bar & Bench)