How To Become a Mediator (with or without a law degree)

How to Become a Mediator

How to Become a Mediator (with or without a law degree)

The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts eight percent growth in the mediation field between 2019 – 2029 — much higher than most other occupations. As court dockets have become much more crowded and the cost of litigation has skyrocketed, major corporations, small businesses and individuals have found mediation to be a quick, confidential and cost effective means of dispute resolution. Mediation is highly effective, with some studies showing an eighty percent resolution rate at or shortly after mediation.

Mediation can be a well-paid choice that is both challenging and rewarding for those who are suited. Mediators, conciliators and arbitrators are expected to enjoy faster-than-average job growth between 2018 and 2028. Average annual earnings are more than $63,000 compared to the median yearly wage of just over $40,000. Much higher wages are possible, with individuals at the top of the field commanding thousands of dollars per day. Although the typical level of education is a bachelor’s degree, some mediators do have master’s degrees or even doctorates.

For a person attracted to work that involves face-to-face communication, and resolving problems, a career in mediation is an excellent choice. Mediators are regularly called on by corporate humans resources and legal departments and state and local governments. Perhaps the biggest single user of mediators is the federal government. Mediators also render aid in disputes involving social assistance, family disputes and health care.

 

Can You Be a Mediator Without a Law Degree?

Many people ask if mediation is a realistic career path without a law degree You can become a mediator without a law degree. There are other routes to your goal.

Mediation and law practice are not the same thing. The law is an essentially adversarial system that tends to drive people apart and pick a winner. In contrast, mediation is a cooperative process aimed at drawing disputants together, helping them find creative solutions to problems, and possibly even moving them into a mutually beneficial relationship in the future. Neutrals don’t force resolution. Many mediators are highly skilled negotiators. Based On their understanding of the rhythm and flow of negotiations, they may give advice on whether or where an offer is likely to be acceptable. .

It’s important to remember that mediators and arbitrators aren’t the same things. Mediators don’t make binding decisions. They work to lower barriers to settlement and suggest possible acceptable resolutions to simple or complex disputes.

Mediators may find that their responsibilities and challenges bear a resemblance to those in the broader human resources field, but there are still different aspects of each, including:

  • Conducting meetings between disputants and work to keep the dialogue going.
  • Interviewing claimants to learn about disputed cases, the emotions attached to them and the other barriers and incentives to settlement.
  • Using techniques to keep communication open and productive.
  • Rendering a written opinion of recommendation after the mediation, if needed.
  • Particularly in family law, judges may seek the input of mediators on custody and visitation issues.

A mediator’s job is not to hand down judgment, or to decide who’s right or wrong in a conflict. Their opinions are not binding. Instead, mediators are neutral third parties who keep the dialogue going, even between people who feel they have nothing in common except a dispute.

As a result, you can find success in this area even if you lack a legal education. How easy this will be also depends partly on where you live.

How Can You Pursue a Mediation Career if you Don’t Have a Law Degree, or Even If You Do?

You can take several steps to get your start as a mediator, whether you are a lawyer or not.

1. Discover Your State’s Requirements for Court Certification

While no state yet requires licensing or certification to be a mediator, in state court systems have different requirements to allow participation in the court‘s panel of mediators, so- called “Court Certified” mediators. Membership on the panel gives mediation participants assurance that the mediator is competent.

Becoming a court certified mediator not only allows you to demonstrate competence, It may provider a source of future work. Though all mediators can benefit from being on a court panel, it should be a high priority for attorney mediators, because potential clients are likely to believe they understand the litigated dispute.

Most states require between 20 and 40 hours of mediation training. Some states also require a law degree with a certain number of years experience. They also may require that a certain number of mediations have been performed. Some states require a bachelors degree, in family law, it is common to require a degree in psychology or a related field, because family law clients are often self represented and also frequently engage in high conflict behavior. Sometimes, a large number of mediations, or many hours of training, will substitute for other requirements. Some court systems maintain separate panels of attorney and no attorney mediators.

Becoming a court certified mediator not only allows you to demonstrate competence, it may provide a source way to meet future mediation clients.

 

2. Complete Mediator Training

In Florida, Maryland and some other states, all it takes to get your foot in the door is to complete a comprehensive mediator-training course and pass a background check. This type of training is useful because it:

  • Gives interested parties an overview of the work involved
  • Provides role-playing and other practical opportunities
  • Exposes you to the world of mediation and techies new techniques

Since mediation is a growing part of The court system, courses in it are often offered in law school. Those interested in mediation may be able to substitute courses taking during law school for other required training. Such courses are likely to be much more in-depth than the basic training required by the courts. Some universities offer graduate degrees.

Clinical courses or externships can help meet the prior Mediation experience requirement or court certification in some jurisdictions.

 

3. Attend Conferences and Bar Meetings

Mediator conferences offer another great way to get an overview of this career field. They also put you face-to-face with top-flight mediation trainers and academics. You’ll get to expand your professional network while taking part. Further, continuing legal education courses that are required of attorneys may include topics dealing with dispute resolution. If you are an attorney (or the guest of one) you may be able to take advantage of such opportunities. Additionally, meetings like this will allow you to meet more attorneys, who might refer disputed cases to you for resolution. Ongoing relationship with numerous attorneys.

See what types of events might appeal to you by visiting the event calendars of groups the Association for Conflict Resolution, the American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Conference and state and regional organizations.

 

4. Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor is one of the most valuable things you can do to help your career. Your ideal mentor will be someone who knows the ins and outs of mediation and has lots of practical experience they are willing to share. Most people with experience are willing to teach someone who shows a real eagerness to learn, especially if you offer to do something in exchange for them. Can you spruce up their website? Edit an article they are writing? Organize their files? Take them to lunch? Wherever your talents lie, the offer to use them to benefit your mentor will be appreciated.

Mentorships won’t replace higher education, they can teach you things classes won’t and give you an, extra edge, and even open some doors. If you are really fortunate, a mentorship might even lead to a job, either with the mentor or one of their contacts.

 

5. Join an Alternative Dispute Resolution Firm

Also called dispute resolution centers or neighboring justice centers papa alternative dispute resolution firms are usually funded by local governments or charities. Disputes submitted are usually between individuals, and participation is voluntary. These firms specialize in providing volunteer or low cost mediation. They are often used as an alternative to the small claims court, and may be a good place to get mediation experience.At the very least, you may be able to shadow mediators working at all neighborhood justice center And learn what the process is really like. But be prepared for nondisclosure agreements, because mediation is intended to read confidential between the participants.

Of course, there are for profit providers of ADR services, but most of these require neutrals to bring in their own clients and generate minimum yearly billing. In return, the provider gives comfortable office and conference space, advertising, administrative and case management support at a prestigious address. Because of the commitment to generate a certain amount of billings every year, it may be difficult to get invited to join one of these groups until you have established yourself as a mediator. There may be an exception if you are already a retired judge or partner in a more established law firm with an existing source of clients.

The process of getting and maintaining clients is not likely to change much. Be visible. Develop a reputation for knowledge and excellence. Pick a specialty to focus on and develop expertise in. Keep up with developments in your specialty. Contribute where you can and stay active in the various trade groups and bar associations near you. Network. . But with the exception of a represented family law clients, your target audience will switch from the consumers of your services to their attorneys, who usually choose providers of mediation.

 

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Scott Van Soye
Managing Editor - Scott Van Soye is the managing editor of ADR Times. He is also a full-time mediator and arbitrator working with the Agency for Dispute Resolution with offices in Irvine, Beverly Hills and nationwide. He is a member of the California Bar, and practiced real estate, civil rights, and employment law for over twenty years. He holds an LL.M. in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University, where he is an adjunct professor of law. He welcomes your inquiries, and can be reached at [email protected] or (800) 616-1202, Ext. 721

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