It seems to be a mystery.
I know a couple.
I don’t want to start our new year conversation off on a bad foot. Heck, I’m still aglow with the wonderful possibilities of a new year. But, I have to tell you, there may be a reason why so many mediators struggle to make it.
Let me share some excerpts from recent conversations I’ve had.
Attorney: Who are the good employment mediators in New Jersey?
This attorney has been practicing employment and labor law for over twenty years and had no idea who to turn to for a good employment mediator.
I know a plaintiff’s employment lawyer in New Jersey who has a short list of mediators he uses. He goes all the way to JAMS New York for one of them! (Ok, New York is our neighbor).
I know another long time employment lawyer in New Jersey who also mediates and gets a steady stream of cases through word of mouth referrals and her professional network. She is also on the court’s employment roster. Her marketing consists of participating in ABA panels on employment mediation and is based in large part on her reputation in the legal community.
Another attorney recently said to me, “I am going to become an employment mediator!” “I have had a string of mediations with court appointed mediators and they have been just HORRIBLE. I know I could do a better job!”
I know a former plaintiff’s employment lawyer who mediates and networks with former colleagues and gets hired pretty regularly.
Another attorney just had a mediation with a court appointed mediator and said to me, “We settled but the mediator didn’t really do anything. He just wasn’t any good.”
What is wrong with this picture?
Is this a case of a market disconnect? Overly critical attorneys? Or do we need to listen up?
Remember our prior conversations about matching the service to what client’s want?
In some cases, attorneys want a settlement conference — at least in litigated cases. If you are going to target litigated cases or you are doing mediations on the court’s roster, spend some time investigating what the parties and the attorneys want. Ask them what they hope to accomplish through the process.
Mediator’s Resolution Number One for the new year: Spend time each week improving your skill.
In a market like New Jersey, in a niche like litigated employment disputes, word of mouth marketing is key. If no one is going to recommend you after mediating with you, your practice will not take off.
But the lessons to be learned from these conversations I excerpted above, apply to your neck of the woods too.
Rule No. 1 — Do Good Work
Rule No. 2 — In litigated cases parties and lawyers want someone who understands the substantive law. Many mediators wish it weren’t so — but it is.
I know many mediators who dogmatically exclaim, “if I provide an evaluation, it’s not mediation.” Sadly, a narrowly defined service may not match what the market wants. Remember Ken Cloke’s book we highlighted last January? He had the entire spectrum of mediation techniques laid out on a canvas like colors on an artist’s palette. Pick and choose as the light of the day dawns and unfolds before your eyes. Sometimes, you may choose a bright red hue that requires you (with the appropriate disclaimers) to reality test in such a way you are evaluating the case. At times you will work in pale blues and be empathic and facilitative. Sometimes you will be hot pink directive in someone’s face to get control of a room running wild.
I think you get the idea. I hope so!
If you want to break into a market and maybe you’ve practiced law in the community for many years, ask your colleagues who the go to mediators are. You will learn a lot from the answers.
We can do better than this. Yes we can.
NEVER GIVE UP! (no matter how bad it may seem sometimes)
Kristina is an employment lawyer and mediator in New Jersey
p.s. I haven’t been regularly reading other blogs but I just saw this on LinkedIn and Vicki Pynchon posted it on her blog: Lawyers answer Colm Brannigan’s LinkedIn question: “What Qualities Do Counsel Look For In Mediators?”