This is a very sad week in the Dispute Resolution world, as we note the passing of Sir Laurence Street. There are many acknowledgements in the media of his incredible contribution to many aspects of public life in Australia, most notably the legal arena, but I cannot miss this opportunity to note the impact of his promotion of mediation to Dispute Resolution in general and me in particular.
Sir Laurence was a former Chief Justice and Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, a Companion of the Order of Australia, a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, a Knight of St John and a Grand Officer of Merit of the Order of Malta. Following his retirement from the Bench Sir Laurence continued his service to the community by leading a range of important public inquiries while engaging as a commercial mediator and arbitrator in a wide-ranging field of disputes. Sir Laurence is credited with conducting over 2500 successful mediations and negotiations.
Sir Laurence, was a pioneer of mediation, and a man of amazing vision and influence. Although from a very traditional legal family and with considerable personal success and achievements in the legal world, he could see the limitations of the adversarial system and how mediation had something unique to offer. He could also see that the legal system and mediation did not have to be in competition with each other, but more than this, that they could both work together for the benefit of clients and those working with them. He had a vision of matters moving in and out of both processes at different stages of their journey towards resolution, and he advocated this robustly, both inside and out of his court room.
As a lecturer in the Practical Legal Training Programme with the College of Law I have used his video “Sous Chef or Sue Chef” as a teaching tool for many years. I can still see the twinkle in his eye as he expertly brings the parties to a mutually acceptable outcome of what appears at the outset to be an intractable dispute. I still refer to his articles and publications on mediation and can recommend highly Sir Laurence’s booklet “Mediation: A Practical Outline” which distills the process of mediation and its underlying values and principles for a broad audience.
For those who want to understand more about the amazing contribution of this man to ADR see the following resources: