Do Not Compromise When Selecting The Right Mediator

By Douglas Katz – 02/08/23

So you have embraced the value of alternative dispute resolution and decided to use a mediator to reach an agreement on a conflict.  What next?  Well

When choosing a mediator, it’s important to consider the following factors:

  1. Type of Mediation: Mediation is often associated with divorce, but in reality there are many different types of mediation used for different circumstances and conflicts.  The mediator should be able to meet the requirements and objectives of that type.
  2. Qualifications: Look for a mediator who is trained and experienced in conflict resolution and has a good reputation in the field.  This should go beyond looking for mediator in their signature line.
  3. Compatibility: Consider if the mediator’s communication style, values, and approach align with your needs and preferences.  Mediation works much better when you and the mediator get along and you can control that when you decide.
  4. Area of expertise: If the conflict you’re facing involves a specific area of law or industry, look for a mediator who has expertise in that field.  Simply put in oversimplified comparison, you don’t hire a plumber to do your electrical work.  Know you needs and match the mediators background to them.
  5. Availability: Ensure that the mediator is available to work with you and can commit the necessary time and resources to your case.
  6. Cost: Consider the mediator’s fees and whether they are within your budget.

Because selecting your mediator is so important, these evaluative criteria deserve more than a few sentences.  Every step demands a deliberate mapping of the mediator into your needs, preferences and desires.

Type of Mediation

Mediation is a process and, like any process, there can be many circumstances what the process works but requires specific skills, experience and capabilities.  By understanding what you need, you can best narrow the field making further evaluation simpler.  There are the most commonly referenced types of mediation, including:

  1. Facilitative mediation: This type of mediation focuses on helping parties to communicate effectively and find common ground in order to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
  2. Evaluative mediation: In this type of mediation, the mediator provides an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case and provides guidance on potential outcomes if the case were to go to court.
  3. Transformative mediation: This type of mediation emphasizes personal growth and the development of new relationship dynamics between the parties. It aims to help the parties understand each other’s perspectives and find a solution that meets their individual needs.
  4. Restorative justice mediation: This type of mediation focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships between parties. It is often used in cases involving harm to individuals or communities, such as in criminal cases or disputes involving neighbor disputes.
  5. Workplace mediation: This type of mediation is designed to resolve conflicts in a workplace setting, such as disputes between employees or between employees and management.
  6. Family mediation: This type of mediation is designed to resolve conflicts between family members, such as disputes over custody, support, or property division.

Qualifications

While some states and counties require a legal background for some mediation, such as divorce, mediation on the whole is unregulated and does not require licensing.  This should not dissuade anyone from pursuing mediation.  Instead, it means that choosing a mediator requires a review the qualifications that the mediator brings as opposed to depending upon an industry standard. 

When selecting a mediator, some key qualifications that I recommend that you consider include:

  1. Training: Look for a mediator who has received formal training in conflict resolution and has a strong understanding of mediation theory and practice.
  2. Certification: Many professional organizations offer certification for mediators, which can demonstrate their commitment to the field and their level of expertise.
  3. Experience: Consider the mediator’s level of experience and track record in resolving conflicts similar to yours.
  4. Reputation: Look for a mediator who has a positive reputation in the field and is well-regarded by other professionals and clients.
  5. Professional associations: Check if the mediator is a member of any professional associations related to mediation, as these organizations often have strict standards for their members.

It’s important to consider these qualifications when choosing a mediator to ensure that they have the necessary skills and experience to effectively resolve your conflict.  Do your research as there a wealth of sources from social sites, like LinkedIn, to the mediators website and bio.  Do not be afraid to ask specifically about anything that you do not find.

Compatibility

When selecting a mediator, it’s important to consider compatibility in order to ensure that you will work well together throughout the mediation process.  Mediation is a people driven process that is brought about by some type of conflict.  Compatibility provides a strong basis to discuss topics that can be triggering to one or more parties and to develop solutions that require compromise.

Some key compatibility factors that I recommend that you consider include:

  1. Communication style: Look for a mediator who has a communication style that you feel comfortable with and who can effectively communicate with all parties involved in the conflict.
  2. Values and approach: Consider if the mediator’s values and approach align with yours, as this will impact their ability to effectively mediate your conflict.
  3. Availability: Make sure that the mediator is available to work with you and can commit the necessary time and resources to your case.
  4. Personality: Look for a mediator who has a personality that you feel comfortable with and who can build rapport with all parties involved.
  5. Conflict resolution approach: Consider the mediator’s approach to conflict resolution and whether it aligns with your expectations and needs.

It’s important to choose a mediator with whom you feel compatible, as this will help ensure a positive and productive mediation experience.  You are already fighting with someone or at least in strong disagreement.  You do not want to start the resolution with any feelings of animosity.  You may not always agree with the mediator, but if you trust them, a solution is possible. Without compatibility, you may not build that trust.,

Areas of Expertise

When selecting a mediator, it’s important to consider their area of expertise in order to ensure that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively resolve your conflict. This is the nuts and bolts part of your selection process.  It is your time to objectively look at what that mediator has done in previous roles that will bring value to your mediation.  It is also a chance to determine whether you need an attorney or not.  As I mentioned previously, so mediations absolutely require an attorney, but others do not and there may be a more suited and even less expensive option.

Some key areas of expertise I recommend that you consider include:

  1. Industry-specific knowledge: If your conflict involves a specific industry, look for a mediator who has experience and knowledge in that area.
  2. Legal expertise: If your conflict involves a legal issue, look for a mediator who has knowledge of the relevant laws and regulations.
  3. Type of conflict: Consider the mediator’s experience in resolving conflicts similar to yours, whether it’s related to family, business, workplace, or another type of conflict.
  4. Cultural competence: If your conflict involves cultural differences, look for a mediator who has experience in working with diverse populations and who is culturally sensitive.

By choosing a mediator with expertise in the relevant area, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome and a resolution that meets your needs and goals.  This step is absolutely about the reviewing a resume to see if the mediator will be able to add practical value.

Availability

When selecting a mediator, availability is an important factor to consider in order to ensure that the mediator can effectively resolve your conflict in a timely manner. Some key availability considerations include:

  1. Schedule: Make sure that the mediator is available to work with you and can commit the necessary time and resources to your case.
  2. Location: Consider the mediator’s location and whether it’s convenient for all parties involved in the conflict.
  3. Timing: Ensure that the mediator is available to start the mediation process in a timely manner and that they can complete the process within your desired timeline.
  4. Availability for follow-up sessions: Consider if the mediator is available for follow-up sessions if needed and if they can provide ongoing support throughout the resolution process.

By choosing a mediator who is available and able to work with you, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome and a resolution that meets your needs and goals.

Cost

Cost is always top of mind when I talk to prospective clients.  While I am usually able to help them better understand that the use of and outcomes from mediation provide a value that needs full consideration, I also understand that it is hard to intuitively make the connection.  That said, it is definitely beneficial to understand the cost of the mediation to include the mediator.

When selecting a mediator, cost is an important factor to consider, as mediation can be a relatively expensive process. Some key cost considerations include:

  1. Mediator fees: Look for a mediator who has a fee structure that is within your budget and that you feel is fair and reasonable.  If you have effectively determined the right type of mediator, you may save on cost here.  For example, an attorney will customarily charge more that a non-attorney mediator and you can reduce cost by hiring the letter when circumstances allow.
  2. Hourly rates: Consider the mediator’s hourly rate and the total cost of the mediation process based on their estimated time commitment.  Again, hourly rates will vary based on everything from a legal background to life, professional and mediation experience.  Properly aligning your needs, you budget and the mediator cost is the only path to success.
  3. Additional expenses: Take into account any additional expenses that may be involved, such as travel, preparation time, and materials.
  4. Cost compared to alternative methods: Compare the cost of mediation to alternative methods of resolving your conflict, such as going to court or hiring an attorney, to determine if it’s the most cost-effective option for your needs.

It’s important to consider cost when choosing a mediator, as mediation can be a significant financial investment. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that the long-term benefits of a successful resolution can outweigh the cost.  This is not a time to skimp but rather a time to spend deliberately and wisely to manage cost.

Final Considerations

Yes.  There is a lot to consider when selecting a mediator.  By considering who the mediator is and what they bring to the table at what cost, conflicted parties can best set themselves up for positive and productive outcomes.  If this seems too daunting or you want to find out more, there are amazing resources available through professional mediation organizations and associations or sites like this.  Finally, when you do figure out who you need, you should meet, virtually or in-person, with several mediators before making a final decision and to ask for references from past clients to get a sense of their experience and success rate.