At a presentation to new mediator's a question was asked "why mediate at small claims court?". Besides learning a lot about the community, here are a couple of reasons that come to mind.
Think about it. The rules of evidence, do they apply? Do people exaggerate or flat out lie? They present their persepective for the purposes of winning their case. You learn quickly how not to be manipulated.
If you can get to issues and needs, come up with a common problem statement, find common ground, and reach agreement in twenty minutes, you're not going to miss a thing in 3 or more hours in longer mediations.
You're dealing with people as pro se or with their attorney's. You learn to work in both scenario's.
You're performing a critical function in not only understanding the case but in negotiations with people who do not have the skills but can kind of tell you their issues and needs. When you reframe, reflect, etc. you provide the focus, the spark they need to articulate their position which opens a door for them to negotiate.
You provide a sense of reality.
If you do the above well you gain the clients respect, agreement or no agreement, win or lose.
And, you really do help the court.
Mediators valuing these skills benefit mightily by participating in these programs paid, or as a volunteer.