I'll soon be teaching a short session on career development over at the Straus Institute with one of the hottest mediators in town -- the busily brilliant Lisa Klerman, formerly of Morrison & Foerster and for the past few years the head of the USC Law School's Mediation Clinic.
I have my own short list of practice development principles in How to Start a Mediation Practice. These broad guidelines have taken me farther in the first four years of my mediation career than I should reasonably have expected though, of course, I remain impatient to simply be booked three months in advance right now! ("instant gratification takes too long"). Here they are:
- be conscious, i.e., be alert to conflict escalation, the parties' needs and fears, and your own true goals and genuine strengths.
- be teachable
- be of service
- always say "yes" to a mediation request
- be the exception to any rule that would guarantee your failure
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention mediator and educator Tammy Lenski's meticulously crafted guide book to the perils and opportunities of mediation practice -- Making Mediation Your Day Job here, which I'll be putting on the bibliography list for Jack's class. (Diane Levin's and my reviews of this book can be found here)
Meanwhile, Lisa Klerman has passed along to Jack McCrory, guru to LL.M Dispute Resolution students over at Straus, the following article on business development for the final LL.M seminar before the students graduate from that program. It is well worth re-printing here.
Yes, There Is Money in Mediation! Ten Success Secrets from Top (Non-Starving) Mediators.
It isn't exactly easy to make big bucks as a mediator, but industry standout
Jeffrey Krivis says it is possible. In his new book, he has teamed up with
some of his successful colleagues to share a few lucrative tricks of the trade.
Doctor. Teacher. Firefighter. Professional athlete. And mediator? Actually, yes. While few second-graders are naming this career on What-I-Want-to-Be-When-I-Grow-Up Day, mediation is becoming a hot career choice. Since the early 1990s many people, lawyers in particular, have jumped on the mediation bandwagon. No wonder. Its high success rate and lower costs (compared to those of a court case) have led to a boom in mediators. And surprise! Some of them are making serious money.
"Mediation is a career of extremes," says mediator Jeffrey Krivis, co-author (along with Naomi Lucks) of the new book How to Make Money as a Mediator (And Create Value for Everyone): 30 Top Mediators Share Secrets to Building a Successful Practice. /1
"This is a field in which it's possible to become wildly successful-think Tiger Woods, Martina Navratilova, Lance Armstrong-but only a relative few make it to that top tier. "There are many mediators who struggle," he adds. "And because they consider their career a calling, they accept the struggle. They'll tell you they can't imagine doing anything else. But the truth is, you can fulfill your calling and build up a healthy bank account."
Krivis and Lucks have written a book for mediators-and aspiring mediators-who want to do just that. It's an invaluable resource filled with practical, proven, and down-to-earth information on how you can develop a satisfying and lucrative career as a mediator, no matter what your area of interest. The book provides advice from 30 top mediators, who give a behind-the-scenes look at how they achieved success in this highly competitive profession.
Here are 10 great tips from How to Make Money as a Mediator that can put any new (or struggling) mediator on the path to success:
1. Inspire trust. You must ensure that your clients and potential clients-whether they are lawyers, helping professionals, families, or community leaders-feel they can trust you to be fair. They must believe you can help them grapple with the life-changing issues that arise in mediated negotiations. All top-tier mediators will tell you that inspiring trust is paramount.
2. Cultivate champions. A passion for mediating and terrific natural skills can take you only so far. You need to cultivate champions-influential people who believe in you as a mediator and who are happy to help you get your name out there to larger groups. "I have had several champions who paved the way for me, introducing me to important potential clients and polishing my reputation," says Krivis. "If you have even one such champion, you can consider yourself fortunate indeed. But note: they will not always come into your life by chance. You need to cultivate these relationships."
3. Practice authenticity. Authenticity is the bedrock on which trust is built. For a mediator, authenticity means being strong enough to work with ambiguity day in and day out, and to face the internal conflicts it sometimes engenders. You can't always know where things are going or how you are going to get there, but you must lead from an honest heart. This will give you the ability to walk the fine line between deception and honesty and to make the parties feel that you always have their best interests at heart.
4. Create value. Great mediators are always working to provide direction and encouragement, giving clients new tools for solving problems, guiding them around potential land mines, and helping them discover new opportunities. Krivis calls this creating value. In fact, he says, creating value might well be the foundation for getting clients and settling cases. When marketing your services, you can create value by finding out from the parties what their pain threshold is, what's causing them the most concern, and what has to happen in order for them to select you as the person who can help them solve their problem. Once you have this information, you can innovate regarding how to solve their problem.
5. Embrace rejection. Mediation is an isolated world. For every case you get, there are 10 you didn't. To be really successful, you have to expect rejection and embrace it. You must hold the view that when you've been rejected, it means that someone who believes in you has tried to sell you. He or she will keep putting your name out there, and eventually you'll achieve critical mass. "I hear the statement, 'Oh, your name comes up all the time' from people who have never used me," says Krivis. "Don't let rejection get to you. You may be on every lawyer's list of three top mediators, but you've got to remember that there are two other mediators up there with you. You just can't take the decision personally. It may be based on timing or scheduling, or the would-be clients just plain prefer another mediator over you that day."
6. Practice the Three Ps: Patience, Perseverance, and Persistence. Every single mediator who made it to the top did so because he or she understood the importance of the Three Ps. It can take three to five years to build a successful mediation practice, so relax, dig in your heels, and prepare to be there for the long haul. Believe in your abilities, believe that you can and will build a successful career, back up that assurance with real skills and real successes, and then stay the course.
7. Learn to deal with emotional overload. Sometimes, especially after a particularly rough or draining session, you just have to put the day out of your mind and move on.
8. Make yourself a standout. Here's the brutal reality: there are far more mediators than there are mediation opportunities. Think hard about who you are and what makes you unique, and how you can help your clients and potential clients recognize that uniqueness. Find creative, compelling ways to help yourself stand out from the pack whether it's through teaching courses, writing, or attending CLE programs. Put your name and face in front of your clients with enough frequency that you become familiar-a known quantity they respect. Whatever you do, be discriminating in the marketing choices you make for your practice. Interestingly, says Krivis, standing out doesn't mean tooting your own horn. "You're not out there to tell people how great you are, but to find out what's going on in their practice and how you can help. When they remember your name and face, that's the subliminal message they should receive on their radar screen."
9. Market yourself as a professional. What does it take to establish yourself, to be the name that repeatedly shows up on the ledgers of people who are looking for mediators? You must think of yourself as a professional mediator, believe in yourself, and live the part every day. You must develop a reputation for mediating well and staying with a case until it closes. But beyond these fundamentals, you must understand how to market yourself as a mediator: what it takes to get the power players on your side and what you need to do to be seen as-and become-part of their inner circle. Don't inadvertently market yourself as a fringe player.
10. Stay fresh to survive. Yes, everyone gets tired at some point. But you'll survive in this business by making an effort to stay fresh in your approach and your outlook toward your practice. Do all you can to maintain your compassion for the parties you serve. If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself getting stale or robotic in your approach, take corrective measures fast. You can get your blood pumping again by collaborating on ideas with other mediators or taking "educational vacations" to exercise your mind by learning about faraway places and far-out ideas.