The ABA Dispute Resolution Section has issued a task force report on Improving Mediation Quality. Section Chair Larry Mills observed: “The Report collects interesting empirical information from users of mediation services, presents a nuanced discussion of mediation practices, and identifies the most important elements of high quality, successful mediations. Wayne Thorpe and Rachel Wohl led the task force.
Task Force Co-chair Wayne Thorpe described the Task Force work this way: “Many mediators and users are fully familiar with the basic concepts that form the main focus of our Report: Mediation preparation, case-by-case customization, analytical techniques, and mediator persistence?but the Task Force’s focus group discussions revealed that many users are dissatisfied with existing mediation practice as it relates to those topics. Recognizing that these topics cannot be covered by bright line, right/wrong descriptions, the Report recommends multiple considerations for mediators, parties and lawyers to incorporate into their mediation practice.”
The Task Force determined to focus its work principally on mediation conducted in the context of civil cases in which parties were represented by counsel based upon the belief that this focus would inform it about quality issues in a narrow, reasonably well developed mediation practice area. The Task Force organized a series of ten focus group discussions in nine cities across the United States and Canada. In addition, the Task Force collected more than a 100 responses to questionnaires from mediation users and mediators, and conducted telephone interviews with thirteen individuals who have been parties in mediation.
Co-chair Rachel Wohl, Executive Director of Maryland’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office, said, “It was interesting to note that many of the commercial lawyers we spoke with, who frequently use mediation, have developed such sophisticated levels of understanding, that they give advice to their mediators about how to structure the mediation process to suit the needs of particular cases. Most of these same lawyers voiced very high expectations of mediators, seeking not only those who are highly skilled and knowledgeable, but also those who are intuitive and able to help meet their clients’ emotional needs. Although the Task Force faced logistical and substantive challenges, working collaboratively with Task Force members to meet them has been a very rewarding experience.”
Members of the Task Force are as follows: