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Legal mediation over a cup of coffee

Legal mediation over a cup of coffee

Lan Yiming, a 30-year-old barista who has been in the coffee industry for over 10 years, didn’t expect that coffee would get him involved in some “legal affairs.”

At a crossroads in Shapingba District, southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, the BeLink western-style café stands out conspicuously among building clusters also hosting the local court, procuratorate, and the public security and other departments.

Behind its fashionable design, BeLink serves as a café, a law firm branch, and a mediation station.

While the first floor is open to coffee lovers and lawyers providing free consultations, the second floor provides a private room for people seeking to resolve disputes with the help of mediators. To tie in with this theme, Lan launched a soft latte product named “Mediation Coffee,” using light-roasted coffee beans from Honduras.

Open since May this year, the café hosting BeLink, Juwer law firm, and the local justice bureau, has already resolved over 300 disputes and provided more than 100 legal consultations.

Introduced by Hu Juan, head of Juwer law firm’s Shapingba branch, this crossover idea was spurred by Hongyan citizen comprehensive mediation stations.

In 2021, to promote mediation services of high quality, the justice bureau in Shapingba district established mediation stations in communities, shopping malls, tourist sites and other venues, with judges, policemen, lawyers, inspectors, notaries, and mediators invited to stations to provide comprehensive services.

“This changed the past situation when mediators worked alone and integrated resources required for resolving disputes,” said Qin Zhanyi, head of the justice bureau in Shapingba district. Now, 45 mediation centers have been established and they have successfully resolved over 10,000 cases this year, nearly tripling the figure recorded in 2020.

“We have been providing free consultancy and legal lectures in mediation centers for more than three years. We think it’s very meaningful and want to go deeper into providing social services,” said Hu.

Hu added that as a consequence, it was decided to develop a law-themed space and invite the local justice bureau to set up a mediation center as a way of enriching its public services. Also, the availability of a coffee shop not only helps cover costs but also draws more attention to the venue and thereby promotes the mediation services on offer there.

Song Jing, an experienced lawyer and mediator, has gone to the café almost every day since it opened.

“Before, mediation always took place in a stark setting and mediation was quite tense. However, this café can provide soft light, soothing music and even a private room, which is very conducive to mediation,” said Song.

Read the complete article here.

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