Mediation has been struggling with an identity crisis for years now. It's been confused with meditation
. It's often mistaken for arbitration
. And more recently an Illinois governor characterized a state-funded gang mediation program as "pork" to be trimmed from an overbloated budget
. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
In the grand scheme of things, these are harmless errors that should prod professional mediators to do a better job at marketing and packaging their services and educating the public about mediation's advantages. Of far greater concern though to the field is the questionable use by a debt collection agency of the words "legal mediation" as part of the name of its business, reported today by Chris Annunziata at CKA Mediation & Arbitration Blog
Chris observes, "As a libertarian, I am loathe to advocate governmental intervention, but shouldn't the bar in these states regulate the use of the term 'legal' and 'mediation'?"
While I agree with Chris that state bars should monitor the use of the word "legal" by businesses to describe their services, I am not sure that it's any business of the bar to regulate the use of the word "mediation" -- not when so many professional mediators are not attorneys and there is no requirement that mediators in private practice must also be members of the bar. Moreover, while it is true that a very few state courts do certify certain classes of mediators in court-connected programs
, no U.S. state currently possesses the power to license mediators or to regulate the private practice of mediation.
This instance illustrates how urgent the need is for the mediation field here in the U.S. to move now to develop a formal system to qualify mediators and regulate the profession. The future of the field depends upon it; public confidence demands it. We can no longer argue that regulation will thwart innovation in a still developing field, that it is unnecessary or will be too costly, that it will discourage otherwise qualified individuals from entering the field, or that mediation itself resists definition.
We should act now, before others define mediation for us. It is, at last, time.
Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.
A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals. She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs. She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.
web site: http://dianelevin.com