It’s a buyer’s market in mediation. There are thousands of mediators and that number is growing rapidly. The screening process available to you to select a mediator is based almost exclusively on personal experience, word of mouth and website information. There is no Angie’s List.
You use mediation as a method to advance the interests of your clients. Your clients, in turn, evaluate you on the quality of your work and the wisdom of your advice. You want your client to think that the time and expense of the mediation were resources well spent, even if the case doesn’t settle, so selecting an effective mediator is important.
You expect the mediator to employ a variety of skills so that the negotiated outcome resolves the dispute and makes sense to your client. So go beyond settled/not settled in your vetting process; here are three characteristics of an effective mediator worth looking for:
Curious – It’s the difference between claiming to have all the answers and having the right questions. Curiosity leads to revealing new paths and overlooked or under-appreciated opportunities.
Patient – It takes time for people to change the way they feel and to reason their way through problems. Forced decisions encourage the use of shortcuts (heuristics) that often lead to bad decisions and impasse.
Mindful of bias – A biased mediator can undermine the entire process. And a mediator unskilled at dealing with the biases of others, either explicit or implicit, is unlikely to be of any real help. Even worse is the mediator who hasn’t invested the time and energy necessary to acknowledge and deal with their own biases.
Don’t hesitate to call me in advance of selecting your mediator. I would be happy to talk to you (and opposing counsel) to discuss your best path forward.