Comments: In Search Of An Occupation

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Laura , Sacramento CA   08/25/05
I became a Certified Conciliator eight years ago and a Certified Paralegal eight months ago. I'm having difficulty finding employment with the courts as an ADR mediator, why? I have a B.A. degree in Law Studies which entails the study of litigation, contracts, family law, legal research, etc. Yet it appears as if the doors are closed to non-lawyers in this field. Where does one begin to practice mediation skills that are not pro bono? Thank you, Laura Washington

Michael J. Popovich, Corona CA   12/29/04
Mediation: OK, but not for pay. Why?
I am a certified mediator in California for the last two years. Finding gainful employment is not only unavailable, but a pattern is beginning to show where the opportunities have gone. The pattern of evidence lies in the voluntary mediation jobs available, and the trainings being held by attorney mediators, law schools, and job openings looking for attorney mediators. Many of us have spent time and money to make it to the big leagues in mediation. There are promises that you can succeed everywhere...this is not reality. Sorry, but mediation reality lies in the hands of the attorneys, their schools, and anyone who sponsors mediation training without telling you not to quit your day job. I have been a mediator for 34 years but in a capacity where the mediation supplemented my first jobs (primary) usually associated with a non-paid union official. So, if you are out there selling people to become mediators and/or get more education with the implication that this will get you a mediator position - we are on to you now. We just will not do those pro bono cases anymore either. And unless someone is wealthy and looking for something to do during the day, we will not feel guilty when we choose to receive money for our services. Especially when some of us have certified paralegal skills. We see the light!!!!!

Mark , Eureka CA   02/25/02
I enjoyed your article. It seems to me that the SF bay area is leading the way re: use of ADR. One might look at that sample to see why they are progressing in terms of number of providers, while other areas of CA are not. San Diego seems to have a few, LA hardly any. Maybe we need to develop a group to work with the bar and judicial system, as well as agencies that frequently deal with conflicts, e.g realtor boards, Sr. Omnibuds programs, planning departments, PDs, etc. Thanks again,Mark

James Preston, Washington DC     02/22/02
Barry, I agree with you. However, there are some simple realities, in my view, regarding mediation as a profession. I don't desire to get into a boxing match with the legal community. One of the other posters said it so succinctly; do your own thing, and hang out your own shingle. I believe that there is room for everyone inspite of what some lawyers may feel, "Mediators are taking food out of my mouth." The mere thought is repugnant, selfish, and self serving. I believe that the mediation arena should have standards and a code of conduct that all mediators should adhere to. The ABA's work in that direction is very helpful, that is one of the reasons why I joined their ADR Section. And, I might add that, as a non-lawyer, I do a lot of volunteer work as a federal gov't employee, in the court system, and the community. And, I also have a small private practice that is growing. I don't need others to validate me, or my work. In the words of a famous vendor.. "Just Do It!"

Bill , Fairfax VA   02/21/02
I would suggest that the field of dispute resolution and other participatory processes for resolving differences has grown enormously in recent decades with many professionals making a very good living. Mediation is only one way of resolving disputes and I believe in many situations it is not the most effective way. Professionals who have a varied toolbox and can fit the tool to the problem have a greater likelihood of being employed. Also, while much of the mediation that is performed in the "shadow of the robe" does have roots in the Pound Conference, it should be noted that the field has roots in the nonviolence movement, peace studies, citizen participation, family systems theory, public administration, international relations, community development, organizational behavior, and the social psychology discipline (and we could probably add 10 more tap roots) as well as numerous indigenous peacemaking modes that have largely been invisible until recent times -- all of which have helped shape the "modern" field.

Antonia , New Britain CT   02/19/02
making a real profession
If you look at the educational programs that have ADR as their focus, with the sole example of school peer mediation, all of them are designed to create neutrals, not clients. We need to turn some of our creative energy away from expanding the base of providers and toward creating users. And, note, the school peer mediation programs assume volunteer mediators. Any wonder no one wants to pay us for what we do??

Caroline , Sarasota FL     02/19/02
In Search of Answer
I heartily agree the potential of this vocation is mind-boggling. Hanging out a shingle cannot be done, however, without being able to answer the following question: Why hire a mediator, instead of using the free (and admirable) mediation services offered by the courts,(or by a comunity service)? There has been talk of compensating volunteers—and so far that’s all it’s been. Talk. Meanwhile it is up to the individual mediators to compete with a free service. After all, we make up the volunteers. So instead of seeing me through the Citizens Dispute Center, for free- (or what ever program most of us started out with) I’m asking to be paid. I am competing with myself. And I'm cheaper when I don’t get paid. It does have its humorous side somewhere. Perhaps 'think tanks' could be conducted, to pool for ideas (read: advertising) that must work to satisfy this very valid question. As the author rightly states, there will be plenty of work for all, if we all work on it. As an example, say six mediators with varied ‘specializations’ (employment, construction, finance, real estate, divorce, insurance etc ) that live within 100 miles of each other, get together and make a commercial. They split the costs. If it works, pass it on to “The Tank”. In fact, if it doesn’t work, pass that on as well. The author has stated a fact. The profession must be created, before we can be compensated for the well-known, and valuable benefits professional Mediators provide. That’s us.

Alan , Victoria BC   02/11/02
Thank you Barry for helping me grasp the bigger picture concerning the mediation profession (or lack thereof).

Rachel Green, Brooklyn NY     02/01/02
Barry, thanks for a thought provoking article. I couldn't agree with you more. I am continually surprised by the number of clients I get who are cousins/friends/boyfriends/neighbors of former clients. It appears that people only think of mediating if they know someone who's done it. For that reason, I encourage all new mediators who have the bug -- and the financial flexibility needed to start your own business -- to hang out their shingles and promote mediation as much as they can.

Suzanne , Arroyo Grande CA   01/26/02
In Search of an Occupation
Thanks for an excellent article. You have very clearly described what I see as the most formidable stumbling block in actuality as well as public perception as to the value of mediation. In my brief mediation training to date, I have been perplexed to understand why mediation has been linked so closely with the legal process when, to me as a paralegal, it so clearly conflicts with training and education of the mediator. Is it not the mantra of mediation that promotes disputing parties to make their own resolutions, and isn't the first thing relinquished when hiring an attorney this very opportunity? You have expressed an important point that must be in the minds of many mediators. Now let's take that idea and run with it to free the process from the stronghold of the legal system and take on the responsibility of transforming opinion and educating the public.

MaryAnne , SmallTown MI   01/25/02
Barry Simon's article
Thanks, Barry, for a really enlightening article. I appreciate the time and effort you obviously spent on it. I've printed it out and will add it to our mediation center's *must read* list.