So, You Want to be a Mediator?

I find myself regularly asked “what do I need to do to become
a mediator?” While I do not pretend to have all of the answers, here are a few suggestions.

Identify Types of Mediation Practice That Interest You

First, it likely makes sense to identify the types of mediation
that attract you. The development path for each practice area is somewhat different.
Each practice area will have its own “culture,” “network” and “process” for
getting cases to mediate. Here are some of the types of mediation:

  • Adoption

  • Americans
    with Disabilities Act

  • Art

  • Aviation

  • Business

  • Civil

  • Commercial

  • Community

  • Construction

  • Contracts

  • Criminal

  • Cross

  • Divorce

  • Post

  • Education

  • EEOC

  • Elder

  • Employment

  • Entertainment

  • Environmental

  • Franchise

  • Health

  • Intellectual

  • International

  • Labor

  • Land Use

  • Landlord Tenant

  • Malpractice

  • Lesbian, Gay

  • Partnership

  • Personal Injury

  • Police

  • Postal Service

  • Probate

  • Public Policy

  • Real Estate

  • Religious – Congregational

  • Securities

  • Maritime

  • Medical Treatment

  • Native American

  • Online

  • Organizational

  • Social Security

  • Special Education

  • Tax

  • Technology

  • Victim Offender

  • Work Place

  • Workers Compensation

Identify Web Resources

Having identified a few “niche” areas that you desire to practice in, the next thing to do is to read more about
those areas of practice on the web (information is freely and immediately available).
For example, offers more than 30 Sections at and a drop down list of topics at the top of every page of Also see our main content search at

Also be sure to visit the Association
for Conflict Resolution
and the American
Bar Association Section for Dispute Resolution
. A general list of international,
national and state organizations is available at

The best centers for Online Dispute Resolution are and the Center for Information Technology
and Dispute Resolution
. Resourceful Internet Solutions now offers “Caseload Manager” for secure online case management for both practitioners and ADR programs.

Take A Mediator to Lunch

Another great way of introducing yourself to mediation is
to find mediators who are already doing the type of mediation work that you
desire and doing it well. One way to find mediators is with the Directory. Take a couple of established mediators to lunch
and ask them about the “mediation culture” that they work in. What is the
network and system that creates cases? How do mediators get established in
their niche? Who decides which mediators are selected? Talk to established
mediators and see how they have become successful.

If possible, see if you can talk your way into observing
a mediation or two (this will require confidentiality agreements with clients).
Some community programs and internships build observation right into their
training package.

Learn and Network at Trainings and Conferences

You will want to get at least one, preferably more, 30-40
hour comprehensive mediation training. Trainings available here: You really want an A-Z overview of
the world of mediation, as well as the opportunity to try this mediation thing
on for size (role play). The reality is that, if you are turned on to mediation,
this will just be the beginning of your training. You will want more, really
as much as you can get. There are many ways to mediate. Learning from a variety
of capable practitioners and trainers is smart. There is no single recipe
for success. In fact, one could argue that it is the mediator’s flexibility
that is most connected to success, rather than any magical formula.

Conferences are a good opportunity to get a relatively quick
overview of the field, or portions of it, and to take a variety of workshops
with leading trainers. If you like someone, you
can track them down and see what other training they offer. Among the leading
conferences are the Association for
Conflict Resolution Conference
(next conference is October 2014 in Cincinnati)
and the American Bar Association Section
for Dispute Resolution Conference
(next conference is April 2014 in Miami). There are also a wide range of state and regional conferences.
See for the best
listing of conferences and trainings.

When considering basic mediation training, be sure to do
some homework on the training requirements in the state(s) where you want
to practice. Training requirements vary from place to place and also change
over time. There may be a number of public sector panels in a state that may
have different training and experience requirements. You can research training
requirements for a state at Google. You might also consider contacting a practitioner
in your desired practice area (as described above) and pick their brain about
the various panels and requirements in your area.

The odds are that you are going to conclude that you need
a 30 or 40 hour basic mediation training to get started. A number of leading
trainings are listed at and also be sure to see the Calendar at
Ask established mediators who they think the best trainers are.

Be sure to see’s Training DVD’s and University (online streaming trainings).

In the divorce mediation area, there are standards for approved
family mediation trainings at Also be sure to see the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) at
Also see the Association
of Family & Conciliation Courts
for conference and training opportunities.

For commercial mediators, be sure to check out the International Mediation Institute.

If you are thinking about getting started with voluntary community
mediation (a common way to get a few cases under your belt and to help out),
be sure to see the National Association for
Community Mediation

Read a Few Books

In terms of establishing a practice, you may want to read Peter
Lovenheim’s book Becoming
a Mediator: An Insider’s Guide to Exploring Careers in Mediation
. Another
good resource is Woody Mosten’s Mediation Career Guide.
An an overall text, consider Chris Moore’s The
Mediation Process
. There are many excellent books and resources in the field.
The leading publisher is Jossey Bass (now Wiley).
Also take a look at the Program on Negotiation

What Will You Conclude?

Odds are that you will conclude that this mediation stuff
is really interesting. What is also true is that the standards (usually minimum
training and experience) for entering the field are relatively low, maybe
too low. As the barriers to entry into the field of mediation are relatively
low, this tends to mean that there are plenty of “wannabe” mediators. Those
that are successful in moving from wannabes to successful practicing mediators
tend to be those that do not need to rely on mediation income immediately.
It is perhaps best to think of your growth as a mediator in incremental terms,
most likely over 1-3 years. There is little reason to delay getting going,
and it is lots of fun along the way. What is also true is that “success” will
not come over night, but rather over time. Your ability to steadily grow your
mediation practice will be the key to your survival and success.

Ultimately, getting cases is a matter of reputation. You
want to build your reputation as a capable mediation practitioner by participating
in quality training, networking with colleagues, networking in your chosen
niche areas of practice and by steadily informing your marketplace of your
availability and of the quality of your work.

The Internet has dramatically changed how mediators spread
word of their existence and special qualities. Mediators need and are well
served by web sites to assist in the convenient distribution of comprehensive
information. While the qualification requirements for mediators vary, one
thing that is constant is that mediators have an ethical duty to disclose
to parties whatever qualifications you think you have.

Surely, clients and referral sources compare mediator web
sites in deciding what mediator to work with. It is important that you as
a mediator do well in that comparison. In fact, your web site will likely
become a metaphor for your developing practice. In the moment, you may not
have a whole lot to put up on your web site to convince disputants to choose
you to work with. That is, however, exactly your task: developing a presentation
(both physical and online) of yourself that has disputants and referral sources
saying: “This mediator looks good, let’s go with them . . .” It is when awareness
of you as a competent mediator and a ripe case intersect that magic (paying
work) happens.

So, it is a journey and there is much terrain to cover. While
not necessarily providing much of a detailed roadmap, I am thinking that perhaps
this article is helpful as a “fly by” providing orientation to the terrain
ahead. At this point, it is almost surely the case that the best thing you
can do is to pursue one or more comprehensive mediation training opportunities
where you can further the general guidance offered here. Go for it and I hope
to see you down the road and online!


James Melamed, J.D.

Jim Melamed co-founded in 1996 along with John Helie and served as CEO of through June 2020 (25 years).  Jim is currently Board Chair and General Counsel for Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. (RIS), home to,, and other leading dispute resolution sites. During Jim's tenure,… MORE >

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