For more than two decades, Karma Sonam has been mediating disputes in Thimphu. The past two days revealed times have changed and that he needs to adopt new methods and ways to deal with cases.

The owner of a paralegal service firm in Thimphu said the training on mediation procedures and skills for paralegal service providers gave him new strategies to mediate.

“After these many years of experience, I realised that mediation is first listening to the clients,” he said. “Most of the time, we tend to miss that.”

Karma Sonam said that if done professionally, mediation could solve problems. “Otherwise it would create problems.”

Tashi Tshering, a senior sergeant in Royal Bhutan Police said that this training would come handy.

“I deal with more than 1,000 personnel and there are disputes every day on various issues but we didn’t have any training in dispute resolution,” he said. “Such training is most relevant to people like us.”

Other participants of the two-day workshop organised by Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) and Bar Council Association (BAC) echoed similar views.

BNLI officials said considering the duties of paralegals, HRH Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, the President of BNLI, commanded to organise such workshops.

BNLI director general, Lobzang Rinzin Yargay, said that the paralegals have an important role in rendering legal service to the people.

Paralegals carryout mediation and negotiation of disputes, drafting of agreements and petitions to be submitted to the court for clients, and drafting and execution of various legal instruments entailing legal efficacy.

Mediation and the negotiated settlement, which is one of the core functions of paralegals, offers the best way to resolve disputes and win the hearts of the parties.

It goes beyond, participants say.

Some participants said that being a closely knitted society, rumours spread fast and whenever disputes arise, the rumours actually do more damage to the parties than the dispute. “Mediation is expected to strengthen bonds in the families and in the communities,” a participant said.

Lobzang Rinzin Yargay said mediation and negotiation, which is widely known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR), has many advantages compared to the mainstream court system. The latter is preferred only as a means of last resort and there will be a winner and a loser, which affects harmony. “With nangkha nangdrigboth parties win,” he said.

Prior to the establishment of the court system in the 1960s, people resolved disputes amicably between themselves with little or no external interventions through mediation.

While mediation has gained momentum and even recognised by anyone who wishes to settle disputes, it is pertinent that mediators must be well versed with knowledge of law and experience in mediation.

Further with time, laws are amended and new laws adopted. It is equally important that mediators do carry out mediation in the best and suitable way in keeping with the new socio-economic and technological development.

The workshop for paralegals is intended to address these concerns so that it will not only enhance or equip paralegals with new methods such as tools and tactics to deal with new complex issues in better manner but also to maintain mediation standards in the country so that there is uniformity and consistency both in process and results, Lobzang Rinzin Yargay said.

“It is intended to standardise the process of mediation so that it is carried out efficiently or effectively; ultimately the purpose is to disseminate to the public and then encourage them to resort to alternative ways of resolving disputes rather than going to courts directly,” he said.

Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) conducted professional training on nangkha nangdrigsince 2012.

HRH Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck graced the two-day workshop and awarded certificates to the 36 participants. There are 33 registered paralegal firms across the country.

Tshering Palden