Gene , Los Angeles CA 04/12/05
Charles, Your position is compelling and well stated. Newer members of our profession are routinely taken advantage of to an extent that, relative to other professions, is unconscionable. It necessarily effects us all, whether we chose to continue to be part of the pro bono system or not. It creates such a barrier to entry that many deserving and potentially talented mediators may never really get a chance to experience our profession as anything more than a foolish whim. For the seasoned professionals among us, it constitutes an extremely unfair form of competition and dilutes both the effectiveness and reputation of the delivered product.
Those of us who gratefully began our now successfull practices doing pro bono cases are torn between the guilt of trying to "shut the barn door behind us" and our professional/ethical obligation to not let this 2,000 tenacled monster get completely out of control. Thanks for your efforts at illuminating this challenging and perplexing problem.
Nate , Los Angeles CA 04/08/05
The other paradox is that I, as a new mediator, welcome the opportunity to provide pro bono services to develop my mediator skill for the day that I can join the paid mediator club and complain about the pro bono mediators.
Lee Hopkins, Baltimore MD 04/04/05
Thank you, Charles. You have eloquently and succinctly put in words and figures all that I am experiencing as I try to "start-up" a mediation practice. The pro-bono piece of our field feels like Sisyphus' rock that continues to roll over me. Potential clients tell/question me, "why would I use your services when I can get them for free through the courts, etc.?" I happen to feel that my clergy, legal, communications and mediation training are worth something! I still have to pay back my school loans and put a roof over my head. Wanting to utilize my talents for good (peace, reconciliation) shouldn't require "sacrifice" to the degree we are currently experiencing as mediators.
robert , surprise az email@example.com 03/30/05
An excellent article!
I was a volunteer arbitrator, then a mediator, for the LASC for 22 years. There were certain plaintiffs' attorneys and insurance carriers who would regularly request my services pro bono from the court. However, whenever I would suggest being professionally retained on a case once in awhile, the response would alway be "WHY, WHEN WE CAN GET MEDIATORS FREE FROM THE COURT?" This was even though cases were successfully resolved for/by the parties.
Now I am retired and living in Surprise, AZ where we are developing a "Community Mediation Panel" for matters before they enter the judicial system. Although a party may have an attorney present, the attorney is not permitted to participate in the process! Further, any writings, notes, etc. prepared by any party (or any attorney) during the mediation are collected at the end of the mediation and destroyed so they cannot be relied upon at some later time if the agreed-upon settlement is not complied with by all parties. Only the executed agreement may be enforced without any parole evidence.
Best wishes to my fellow volunteer mediators who are still giving away their professional time but if you have any desire to become a professional mediator, you have to stop competing with yourself by working for free.