As a legal professional, it’s your job to pick sides. Whether you’re a lawyer fighting a case or a paralegal gathering the evidence to back it up, your aim is to make a strong argument for your client.
Becoming a mediator, then, might seem like a stretch for you and your inherent skills. Rather than choosing a side, the mediator works for both parties. Families, professionals and even strangers seek mediation, and it’s the mediator’s job to listen to the issue at hand. Then, they help highlight the best course of action, one that’s likely to be a compromise for both sides.
Surprisingly, plenty of lawyers find that training and volunteering as a mediator is a rewarding way to spend their time. More specifically, here are four of the biggest benefits that come with the gig:
1. Helping Others is Rewarding
The millennial workforce has made it clear that they don’t want to work for the sake of it. Instead, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, they want to do good with the skills that they have acquired. This trend extends to lawyers, many of whom put their hearts into pro bono work.
As it turns out, mediation can be just as rewarding of an outlet for those in the legal profession and those outside of it, too. Many volunteers find the sense of accomplishment post-successful mediation to be extremely gratifying. Their efforts mend relationships and bring families back together. The focus on bettering people makes mediation an important and worthwhile task.
2. Mediation Keeps Cases Out of Court
You can feel good about becoming a mediator not just because it helps people, but it also keeps the court's’ workload in check. Mediators can’t make a judgement in a dispute for which they provide their insight. However, if both parties come to an agreement during these talks, then they can bring that decision before a judge. They will then sign off on whatever has been decided in mediation.
Of course, not all mediation sessions will end in a happy compromise, in which case the judge will have to hear the case and make a ruling. Still, the fact that mediators can help solve some disputes before they end up in court means that judges’ workload decreases. In some places, mediators have been successful a whopping 70 percent of the time. Their work relieves the courts minor cases, leaving judges more time to preside over more difficult or pressing matters.
3. You’ll Learn to Listen and Speak Thoughtfully
If you work in the legal field, you have effective communication skills. In this role, you can’t mince words — you must be clear with your clients so that they know what’s at stake and what they can do.
You also must be careful not to cast judgements, either, so adopting neutral language will be vital to your success in the role. It’s not a bad skill to hone and have up your sleeve, especially if you want to work as a paralegal or mediator.
On that note, plenty of volunteer mediators say that the job has helped them improve their listening skills. Indeed, a mediator can’t always jump into a conversation — they especially can’t when parties are sharing their thoughts and opinions. Instead, they listen, and that quiet time helps them to come up with poignant things to say that will guide both parties to a resolution.
4. Mediating Makes You a Better Person
Once you learn how to be a professional mediator — most states have a training program for volunteers — you can apply the same skills to your personal life. You’re likely to find that you have more patience for those with whom you’re in disagreement. Plus you’ll be more willing to compromise and find a solution. Any mediator will know just how valuable it is for people to be agreeable, and they will probably end up being that way in their own lives, too.
On top of that, volunteering always makes us feel good about ourselves. Dedicating time and energy to a cause builds self-esteem by increasing our interactions with others and creating a sense of purpose. Perhaps you will begin to identify yourself not just as a lawyer or paralegal, but as a mediator, too. Having a peacemaking role define who you are will only make you a better person, at work and at home.
Mediate For Everyone’s Sake
In the end, mediators provide an invaluable service to courts around the country. The job requires plenty of listening and thoughtful speech, but those who do it find that the hard work is worth it in the end. The courts appreciate it, too — successful mediators keep their caseload down. You can be a part of all of this goodness by enlisting in training as required by your state. After that, you’ll be on the case in a new way — finding a solution so that everybody wins.
This is the complete interview by Robert Benjamin with Juliana Birkhoff, national leader in the field of public policy mediation, filmed for the Mediate.com "Views from the Eye of the...By Juliana Birkhoff