Non Attorney Mediators- Not Welcome?!?


by Jeff Thompson

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

August 2009

Jeff Thompson Non Attorney Mediators- Not Welcome!?

Recently someone said having mediators on court mediation rosters be limited to those who are also an attorney was a reasonable rule.

I do not agree.

I vehemently disagree.

Things are dangerously becoming more and more an “us versus them” situation. The two sides to the “us and them” issue are non attorney mediators and mediators who also happen to be attorneys. I happen to belong to the “us” side.

Before I continue, let’s go back to the first paragraph. I ask each of you reading this, is it reasonable to have only mediator’s who are also attorneys be allowed on court rosters? Please, leave some feedback. Let’s hear it from both sides.

By the way, a reason the person gave for the law degree requirement is because of the education you then know the mediator has which then qualifies them to be on the roster. Yes, being educated and possessing a law degree gives a mediator a wealth of insider knowledge of the courts and the understanding of the various jargon and processes but does that translate into a requisite for a mediator?

If this continues, the mediation field for those without law degrees is going to shrink and I believe it can eradicate people like me from being involved. As I type this, I realized perhaps an important point to make- the ‘reasonable comment’ was in relation to a court service where the mediators will be paid. This brings up another question I have- is it ok for mediators without a law degree to mediate in the courts as long as they are volunteers? When it comes to getting paid, is that just for attorneys?

What is a mediator without a law degree to do? To answer my own question with a question, does it matter if I applied for one of these positions and said that I have a Masters Degree in Dispute Resolution? Surely that would fulfill the education requirement… right?

Another potential way to prevent the “us” from losing out to the “them” is (drum roll please) certification. Yes, certification. It seems like all talk on the Internet recently has been around the certification process of mediators. Could a national or international certification scheme help mediators in this case? [read recent comments on mediation certification at Mediation Channel, Mediate.com, Negotiation Law Blog and the Ombuds Blog]

Mediators need to increase their power and certification might be the way to do that. Yet another question for everyone- is it healthy that the ABA’s section on Dispute Resolution is arguably one of the most powerful ADR groups in the country, maybe in the world? What does that say for the field since it is an attorney based organization?

If the ACR could get a certification scheme up and running that could help level the playing field that seems to be titling in a direction heavily towards “them”. I recently became certified by the International Mediation Institute and they very well can potentially help as well. What I particularly like about IMI is 1) they are a non-profit organization and 2) they do not offer any services but are instead just a location for people to find qualified mediators.

The way I see certification helping is I think it will make choosing certified mediators become a ‘reasonable’ choice. A proper certification program, which I purposely will not go into here and that is a separate issue in itself, would give its mediators credibility as they have proved through the certification process they are educated, knowledgeable and have the requisite skills needed to mediate. There, no law degree is required anymore!

I would like to keep this short as many people have already given opinions recently on the pro and con side of certification of mediators. What I am trying to do is show a new angle of how it might benefit mediators.

It does not have to be “us versus them” but under a united certification plan, we all can be “us” under a process where a law degree does not exclude people.

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Biography




Jeff Thompson is a certified international mediator. He is also a law enforcement detective in New York City.  He is currently a Research Fellow at Columbia University Law School researching crisis and hostage negotiation as well as other conflict resolution topics. 

His law enforcement work includes a being a communication and conflict specialist, interfaith dialogue, developing and implementing community engagement programs, social media projects, and designing training workshops.

Jeff is also currently a PhD candidate researching nonverbal communication and mediation at Griffith University Law School. He also received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Creighton University School of Law. Jeff has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally and has been published and featured with numerous international media organizations. He currently also writes at PsychologyToday.com

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions as a mediator and not that of any organization.)



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Website: www.EnjoyMediation.com

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