The Key to a Successful Mediation Practice is ‘Being in the Circle’

A common complaint that resonates in our field is lack of paying cases. There are more opportunities than ever to volunteer as a mediator. However, transitioning from volunteer to paid practitioner can be a rigorous task. In order to achieve this transition you must be able to positively answer the following question. Am I in the circle?

What is this magic circle? The circle is the referral network that feeds you cases. This network involves those who are closest to the disputes themselves. This network is far removed from most of us. Examples of this network involves; Judges, Mediation Program Administrators, Attorneys, Claims Adjusters, HR Managers, Court Administrators and others. These individuals are the gatekeepers to the most valuable commodity in our profession, “paying cases”. One reason many new mediators have such a difficult time getting cases is that they are too far removed from those decision makers who have the authority to assign them this commodity.

In order to have a full time caseload you must be involved in a referral network. Even those practitioners who are fortunate enough to be on prestigious panels such as The American Arbitration Association face the same peril.

There is a myth in our field that organizations such as the American Arbitration Association and Jams-Endispute feed panelists cases. The truth of the matter is that only a few of these fortunate neutrals actually get referrals. The rest are searching for cases just like you are.

Our field is saturated with practitioners. ADR is a battle and finding your place on the battleground can be difficult. Community mediation positions and volunteer opportunities are easy to come by. However, it is the “paying” mediation practice that most of us desire. But these positions are not found but created. This is the key. ADR practitioners who have full-time practices are hard workers and brilliant marketers of their services. They also have a rolodex full of referral sources. New entrants to the field who are not “in the circle” will find themselves in a difficult position if they cannot create a successful referral network.

Here are some tips for gaining access to a referral network:

1) Join a superior court volunteer mediation program. It’s a great place to get experience and an excellent start for creating a successful referral source.

2) Join a local networking group highly attended by legal professionals. Networking is key in the mediation business.

3) Be-friend many attorneys, judges, and court administrators and others who can refer paying cases. These individuals hold the key to your future as a mediator.

4) Market your services and follow up on a regular basis with this referral network. Never relent in your marketing and follow up activities. Remember “out of site, out of mind.”


Troy Morgan

Troy Morgan, Esq. is the former president and founder of Mediator Network, Inc.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University and a Juris Doctorate from Jones School of Law. MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Collaborative law: attorneys who mediate and negotiate, not litigate

As family lawyer Diana Skaggs recently alerted readers, the nation's leading divorce lawyers are finding more cases settled before trial. This trend in favor of negotiation over litigation in divorce...

By Diane J. Levin

Michael Lang: Account of When a Stage Method Didn’t Work – Video

Michael Lang tells of a mediation session where he did not follow a step-by-step model, demonstrating that sometimes, a strict model does a disservice to the parties.

By Michael Lang

Mediation Services Matter in Scotland

Kluwer Mediation BlogThis blog synthesises some remarks I have made recently to policy-makers in Scotland. As I reflect on things, there are a lot of issues in the civil justice...

By John Sturrock

Find a Mediator