Comments: Professional Mediator: A Distinction that Makes a Difference

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Alfred CHAN, Central District  alfredchan@sklac.com     09/15/09
I agree with Jeff and Stesyd. As a newly accredited mediator (and a lawyer who has practised for more than 20 years), I understand that I have a lot to learn to be a good mediator. At the same time, I would not, however, rule out the possibility that I might somehow function in a capacity other than a lawyer- just as when I interact with my wife and daughter at home like (I think) an ordinary husband and father.

Paula , Grundy VA   09/11/09
Professionalism?
Hard to sell the concept of "professional" mediator when we, as a field, have so few hallmarks of a profession in most states: few mandatory ethics codes, few self-regulating grievance systems, low barriers to entry, and low maintenance requirements.

Shelly , Tulsa OK   09/09/09
Great Article
Thanks Jeff! Great article. We deal with this in our state regularly. As a professional mediator of several years we struggle with the need to educate the public and the options available to them, this remains our greatest marketing challenge in moving mediation forward.

Stephanie  , Saskatoon SK  stesyd@sasktel.net     09/09/09
I agree with Jeff's assertion that professional mediation skills differ greatly from the skills of judges or lawyers. I believe the mediation field has been taken over by members of the legal community who feel threatened by the ability of "clients" to resolve disputes outside traditional legal processes. Lawyers and judges are trained in adversarial problem solving techniques which stand in direct opposition to the skills required for open and collaborative dialogues between disputants. Good mediators do not judge or decide the value of a case, but rather assess whether the parties can define and represent their interests in a facilitated dialogue. I agree with Jeff that a mediator often takes the parties to the level of emotions, values, perspectives, hopes, fears etc., involved in the dispute & encourages them to expand their thinking with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of the dispute. This deeper understanding will inform the direction of the mediaton process and help both parties make fully informed decisions. Mediators should not be directing conversation but guiding and probing parties to fully understand for themselves what the dispute is about. It's time for the legal community to acknowledge the limits of their skill set and move aside to let mediators do what we are trained to do.

Malcolm Sher, Walnut Creek CA  malcolmsher@aol.com     09/08/09
Great article from Jeff! I've been a "professional mediator" for many years and believe that retired judges don't make the best mediators. For starters, most were on the bench for twenty years, which means that for at least that long they have not had to "counsel" real people called "clients", or deal with the emotions, frustrations, economic and other concerns that clients have. Even the best judges, and those who, in retirement are arbitrators, still make decisions and then walk away from the result or impact of those decisions on the lives of clients. The more experienced professional mediators, many of whom are also lawyers still "in the trenches", know that there is an better alternative to being "pummeled" by a retired judge!