So You Want To Be A Mediator AND Make Money?
Many newly minted mediators have just completed the military’s equivalent of “basic training.” They have taken several classes on mediation and gained some experience mediating disputes, sometimes through a local court panel or community organization. Now, they are ready to quit an old line of work and dive into a career as a mediator. With this limited background and high hopes, the first question typically asked is “How can I establish a financially successful practice?” This book by Jeffrey Krivis and Naomi Lucks seeks to answer that question.
Some aspiring mediators take the Field of Dreams approach: if you print business cards saying you are a mediator and hang out a shingle, the lawyers and the public will flock to your door. Unfortunately, that seldom is the case. If you expect to “go the distance” in mediation, technical competence alone is unlikely to produce a viable practice. And building a mediation practice is not for the feint of heart. Many have heard the calling, but in reality, relatively few will prosper and thrive.
As Krivis explains, being successful in this highly competitive field takes a strong commitment and perseverance, a healthy dose of risk tolerance, a solid business plan and enough resources to sustain you in the beginning years when your mediation income may not be adequate. Add to this the single-minded view that mediation is a calling, not a day job. There is nothing else that top mediators would rather do than jump into a room full of chaos and conflict, and help people arrive at a satisfying solution. That intense passion is what motivates them to surmount the obstacles that frequently defeat others.
This is not the first book published about how to become a mediator or how to launch a mediation practice. But what makes this volume unique is that the authors have tapped the wisdom of 30 renowned and successful mediators in the United States and Canada to get their perspective on how one creates a sustainable and lucrative practice. The benefit of this approach is evident on every page. Krivis and Lucks expose the reader to a variety of business models shaped by individual personalities and preferences, substantive specialties, geographic regions and needs of the local market. They eschew any single path to success. Instead, the reader is invited to learn about the successes and failures of others, the ups-and-downs, what worked and didn’t work, as a way of charting their own course.
How To Make Money is a pleasure to read. The authors write in a casual, informal style, making the lessons plain and easy to understand. The book is comprehensive, with chapters on marketing and other practical considerations, such as general business planning, the benefits of having a mentoring relationship, setting fees, and developing a market niche.
For example, the authors explore the differences between operating a solo practice and joining a panel, which functions as a brokerage for mediators. Krivis has chosen the route of entrepreneurship, convinced this is the best way to distinguish him in a crowded market. His concern about joining a panel, Krivis says, is that he does not want to become a “commodity” that makes him interchangeable with other mediators. By contrast, others will find that a panel best suits their needs, relieving them of having to market a practice, schedule and convene cases, and handle billings and collections. A panel allows these mediators to turn over certain responsibilities to a provider in exchange for a percentage of the mediator’s fee.
Each chapter is smartly organized, with text boxes offering more detailed comments and advice from individual mediators, and concludes with a list of concise “Top-Tier Strategies” summarizing the key points. I found the last chapter, titled “The Mediator’s Field Guide to a Successful Practice,” to be among the most helpful. Here, Krivis captures valuable nuggets under categories including positioning and marketing, the mediator’s workplace, money, goals and mindset. He teaches us to define achievable goals and to continually assess our progress; to create a work environment that is both comfortable for clients and which reflects our personal interests; to bring a mediator’s skills and perspective to all life’s challenges, not just the cases where we receive compensation; and to embrace rejection as an inevitable part of the road to success.
There is a deceptively simple and profound theme that permeates this book - - mediators who expect to make a lot of money must create value for everyone involved in the mediation process. “In mediation,” Krivis says, “the main focus of value creation is on leading the parties around the minefields that brought them into the dispute. . . When they see you as the person who can bring them out of this darkness and into the light - - and you are able to back up that perception with good work - - you have created value for all concerned. You’re not selling yourself; you’re selling your ability to solve the problem.”
In How to Make Money, Krivis and his colleagues show us again that hard work and caring about the people touched by the mediation process are just the beginning in starting a successful mediation practice. Krivis is well deserving of his reputation as an innovator and one of the preeminent mediators in the country. Mediators entering the business will find this book an essential guide.