- Education and Training Programs - seminars, presentations and courses of varying length can be designed to meet the special needs of a business, school, organization, university, or private group in negotiation, mediation, or conflict management in any context area. Most courses qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and Continuing Education Units (CEU) credit, meet states' court requirements, and are approved by the Academy of Family Mediators. (See Training).
- Direct Services include the mediation, arbitration, or negotiation of issues or conflicts or the consultation with a party or parties in dispute in any context: business/commercial, land use, health care, employment/workplace, family, divorce.
- Consultation Services
- Dispute Resolution System Design Development
Who Can Mediate
Most people can resolve even the most difficult and complex disputes if they are given the opportunity, a clear procedure and the help of a third person to help them stay on track. Remember, mediation does not rely on trust or on the expectation that other people are necessarily reasonable. All it takes is a determination to take care of business. Mediation is safe--- no one's legal rights or interests can be compromised.
If the parties are good negotiators to begin with, they will quickly recognize the value of a third person in settling difficult matters. If one or both of the parties is not comfortable negotiating, then the mediator will guide and protect both parties through the process.
Mediation is not appropriate in those circumstances where a person has decided that he/she is not capable of making their own decisions even with the support of professional consultants (e.g. lawyers, accountants, other experts).
What Kinds of Disputes Can Be Mediated
What to Expect in Mediation
The mediator will initially meet with the parties involved in the dispute, and their attorneys in some situations, to assure that everyone concerned has a similar understanding of the mediation process, their responsibilities and the mediator's role and responsibility. There will be enough of a discussion about the dispute so that there can be a reasonable estimate of how much time will be required and the cost.
If the parties agree, the next step will be to ascertain the basic facts or story that underpins the dispute and the extent of agreement and a clarification of the issues. At that point, options can be generated and effectively discussed. The parties may negotiate directly, or meet separately in a caucus with the mediator, depending on the circumstances.
When the parties have come to some measure of understanding, the mediator will prepare with them, a written memorandum, written in plain language, that clarifies and confirms their agreements. That memorandum should be reviewed by each of the parties respective attorneys, and modified or corrected as the parties see fit. The mediator cannot act as an attorney for either party or both parties; independent attorney review of the mediated agreement is important for the integrity of the mediation process. After the parties have had sufficient time to review the mediated understanding, and they decide to execute the agreement, the document is as enforceable as any court order or legally binding contract.
Risks and Advantages in Mediation....
see "A Critique of Mediation"..
How to Choose a Mediator
Choosing a mediator to help you manage the resolution of an issue or dispute is critically important if the mediation process is to be successful. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator who makes the decision for you, a mediator has no power or authority to impose a determination. Thus, the effec- tiveness of the mediator is gauged by two factors that should be kept in mind as you interview a prospective mediator:
- Does the mediator effectively listen to each party and convey the sense their thoughts and perspective of the matters at issue will be listened to and taken into account and that he or she will be protected in the mediation process?
- Does the mediator's approach to managing the issues make sense? Is he or she organized and have sufficient skill and experience to be helpful?
Below is a list of questions you may wish to consider asking a potential mediator to assess his or her ability to be of help to you:
- What is mediation?
- What is the structure of the process: When will we meet? Will the mediator meet with us separately, together, or both?
- What if we can't come to agreement?
- How long will the process take?
- How legally binding and enforceable is the mediated settlement?
- What is the mediator's professional background and orientation? Lawyer? Judge? Mental health professional? Business person?
Does the mediator separate his/her professional background from their role as a mediator?
- Is the mediator a member of professional mediation organizations and does he or she subscribe to the standards of practice of those organizations? The Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR), the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM), or the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) all have such standards.
- What style of mediation will the mediator practice? Some mediators will evaluate the matter and give people advice about what they think they should do; others will give information but feel the parties should make the final decisions and function as facilitators.
- What is the mediator's training? Has the mediator been formally trained in interpersonal/group dynamics, conflict management and assessment, negotiation theory and skills?
- What is the mediator's experience?
- What kinds of matters and in what contexts has the mediator worked? family? business? environmental? health care? or all of these? Remember, mediators don't necessarily need to be a substantive expert in the matters you have to consider.
- Has the mediator dealt with multiple parties and complex issues and business matters before?
- Can the mediator give you client references, if requested?
- Does the mediator have any potential conflicts or interests or biases that may affect their work with you in your matter? Does the mediator have a connection with one of the parties or a strongly held view about what should happen?
- What is the mediator's fee structure?
- Does he or she bill by the hour, a daily rate, or a set fee? How will time be kept?
- Will there be a retainer requested and what portion will be refunded?
- How will you be protected in the mediation process?
- What rules will there be to assure that no party will lose a legal right to which he or she may be entitled or compromise an interest he or she may have?
- Will the mediation be confidential and will there be full disclosure of relevant information?
- What if a party is uncomfortable negotiating with another party-how will the mediator manage that circumstance?
Please remember that a mediator is not a judge or an arbitrator and does not have either the authority or power to decide a matter for you. Therefore, their substantive expertise about the particular issue or conflict you have is less important than how effective they may be in helping parties reach agreement.
You may have additional questions that come to mind. Don't hesitate to ask direct or even pointed questions about any concerns you may have. The mediator with whom you work should be able to thoughtfully answer your questions and put you at ease without taking sides and without over-promising a result. Most issues or disputes can be settled by mediation (approximately 80%), but there are no guarantees. Finally, trust your own intuition, and common sense-are you personally comfortable with the mediator