Jeffrey T. Zaino, a Vice President at the American Arbitration Association, offers this guest blog post on developing a career as an ADR neutral:
Developing a career as an arbitrator or mediator can be very challenging. Before you consider moving into the field it is important that you talk to those arbitrators and mediators who have done it successfully. Over the years I have had the opportunity to take their counsel. The following are some of the best of their many tips regarding how to develop and sustain an ADR career:
Compare your resume/panel card to successful neutrals.
Keep your resume/panel card updated and fresh. ADR service providers and advocates do carefully review resumes/panel cards.
Set a fair hourly or per diem rate. Compare your rate with others with similar backgrounds and experience. Understand what the going rate is in your region.
Get involved in various bars associations, state and national. Do not just be a dormant member, volunteer for committees and produce. Bar associations provide a wonderful networking opportunity.
Become active with non-bar association groups active in the field of ADR (e.g., Association for Conflict Resolution and Labor and Employment Relations Association).
Pay your dues – volunteer your services as a neutral to develop skills and network. There are various pro bono community and court programs.
Find multiple mentors to see and learn about different styles. Shadow your mentor not just to be educated but to network with advocates and parties.
Practice in your backyard where parties and advocates know of you and your reputation.
Participate in ongoing trainings and educational events to keep up on current trends/laws and to network.
If pursuing a mediation career read, “Making Peace and Money: Economic Analysis of the Market for Mediators in Private Practice.”
Have a webpage and effectively use social media. Social media is here to stay and many new neutrals use social media to promote themselves. It is one tool used by parties and advocates to research about neutrals.
Google yourself. If you are active in the community professionally and have a social media presence, what should appear is positive and free information about you. This is a free advertisement about you and your ADR practice.
Do not get discouraged – as any successful neutral will tell you, it takes a lot of hard work and time to develop a career in this field.