Do You Have to be a Lawyer to Be a Mediator?

Do You Have to be a Lawyer to Be a Mediator

For many people hoping to become a mediator, the first question they may ask is whether you have to be a lawyer to become a mediator. It is a relief for some to know that they do not need to attend law school, earn a law degree, or even practice law before becoming a mediator. Keep in mind that although a law degree is not necessary to become a mediator, there are perks to a juris doctor degree over a bachelor’s degree when both training in and practicing mediation. Yet other considerations make law school a problematic or impossible choice for some.

This article will highlight these perks, discuss the downsides, and outline the process to become a professional mediator with or without a law degree.

The Perks and Downsides of a Law Degree in Conflict Resolution

Attending law school can significantly impact your mediation practice. Alternative dispute resolution is heavily influenced by the legal system and an understanding of court procedures and litigation can help a lawyer as they begin their mediator career. Even though the court certification process varies from state to state, an advanced degree can also impact how much training and experience is necessary to be listed as a court-certified mediator.

State and local governments also value the formal training and experience with the local court system that one often receives at law school. Additionally, the extensive knowledge of the judicial system and the negotiation skills of many practicing attorneys are highly valued in the dispute resolution world.

However, having only a bachelor’s degree does not mean that you cannot become a mediator. Studying law can often be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming, which makes it a poor choice for some. Many effective and experienced mediators do not have law school in their educational background. For some non-attorney mediators, a graduate degree in a chosen field such as psychology has proven to be more valuable to their career path than a law degree would.

Other mediators may participate in master’s degree programs that focus on dispute resolution, such as a Master’s in Dispute Resolution. Regardless of your educational background, with communication skills and the ability to sit with others in conflict, you can become a mediator.

How to Become a Mediator:

Most states in the United States do not have comprehensive statewide standards for mediator certification. Instead, many states have court rosters of court-certified mediators who can mediate either civil, family law, or both types of cases. The steps below are applicable most to this process but should be followed by mediators wishing to make a career out of conflict resolution.

Comprehensive Mediator Training Course

The first step is to attend a formal mediation training. Some courts will have an approved mediation training program list that they facilitate for people looking for basic mediation training as the building block of a career in mediation.

This mediation training will outline mediation theory, including an explanation of the role of a mediator. The mediator’s job is to facilitate communication between the parties involved to find a mutually agreeable solution. They do not make legally binding decisions, but help the parties identify ways to resolve their conflict. Mediation training gives the students the skills necessary to resolve disputes.

General Civil Mediation

Mediation training covers the basic training to resolve civil disputes. This is important because many civil litigation calendars are backlogged, making it impossible to get a solution easily. Civil mediators can practice in a whole host of specialties as general civil mediators.

Divorce Mediation

Another common mediation specialization is domestic relations mediation or divorce mediation. Mediators practicing here will often have to undergo additional training in child custody and domestic violence implications before they can mediate family disputes.

Additionally, many family mediators will have degrees or experience in family law, psychology, or financial institutions because it aids their understanding of the system. If you are considering family mediation, a degree in one of these areas may be more beneficial.

Mediation Experience

Once you complete training, it is time to practice mediation under experienced mediators in the area that you would like to work in. Most states require several hours of practice and co-mediation before you can mediate cases on your own.

Start your Mediation Practice

Once you have completed your training and experience, it is time to begin your own practice. There are several options for practice including working with other private mediators in an alternative dispute resolution firm. Many states have a dispute resolution center that you can join if you would like to work with other practitioners as well. If you have qualified for a court roster, you may also start receiving cases from there. According to labor statistics, the best median yearly wage is often found in state or local government jobs.

Another option for practitioners may be working in human resources departments or the broader human resources field. Many aspects of the job, negotiating contracts, conducting meetings, or resolving workplace conflict, will be similar to the role of a mediator and could benefit from someone with the expertise.

Find Mediation Training Programs

If you would like to start your mediation career, the first step is finding training that is right for you. ADR Times offers a world-class mediation training program that you can access on our site if you would like to get started.

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