What background do you need to succeed as a mediator? Any advantages to being a lawyer? Challenges and rewards in this field? These are some of the questions answered by mediation old-timers in "Who Wants To Be A Mediator?" (Dispute Resolution Magazine), an article written back in 2010.
All of us who have been active mediators for any significant time are asked time and again, “How can I get into the field? Is mediation as enjoyable as it appears to be? What will it take for me to become a successful mediator?” We asked these questions of 31 mediators who began mediating in the 1970s and 1980s and who have remained active in the field to this day. These mediators have experience in the areas in which mediation has been most widely used: business and commercial, construction, product liability, employment, divorce, labor management, neighborhood, environmental, community, and public policy matters.
Despite the variety of their areas of practice, the views of these mediators were remarkably consistent. They found mediation to be immensely satisfying work. They noted the value of patience, persistence, and legal experience in becoming successful in the mediation marketplace. They also commented on the importance of mediation training, mentoring, practice, and marketing. Finally, they commented on the challenges—and advantages—of turning to mediation as a second career.
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What do you think?
Note: I recommend the article by the same authors in Negotiation Journal, also published in 2010. Excerpt:
Gary Friedman also told us that he thinks some of the original promise of mediation has been compromised.“For me mediation was really about flipping the basic professional assumption that we knew better than people in a dispute about what they should do with their lives,” he explained.“The people that came to mediation in the beginning really got that. . . . [O]ver time that changed because lawyers got involved, and said, ‘Well, this is a settlement conference, we know how to do this.’”
A number of mediators expressed concern that the field has become too specialized and routinized. Christopher Moore said that “because of the specialization dynamic, people get locked into one area of practice. One of the most wonderful things about my practice has been the cross- fertilization of ideas. You can take an insight from doing a family case . . . or any interpersonal case, and apply it to big public or international conflicts. . . . I worry that the specialization may prevent some of the great cross-pollination of ideas.”
Leonard Riskin described visiting a mediation firm whose members had “created a template, in which mediations began with a joint session and then stayed in caucuses for the remainder of the day. That was just the way it was. And I think that that format is more and more common. It bothers me to see this degree of inattention to what’s going on in an individual case.”