The Mediation Community’s Dirty Little Secret

We are a great group of people, us mediators. We understand how emotions and values play into conflict, we recognize the power in a solution that fits both parties’ needs, and we approach the world with a quiet confidence that any disagreement can be resolved. I love that about us. Too bad we don’t always apply those skills when it comes to the divide in our own community, though—namely, the ongoing attorney-mediator versus the non-attorney-mediator discussion. Unlike doctors without borders, it seems our community has borders…or should I say boundaries? I know I’m not the first person to bring up this subject and I’m certainly not the first person to think that the topic is talked about way too much behind closed doors rather than out in the open, but I’m going to bring it up again because I’d really like us to work on a resolution. The divide between the attorney-mediator and the nonattorney-mediator disappoints me. I rarely think of the qualifier (attorney- or non-) unless I’m with a group of individuals who insist on introducing themselves one way or the other. Otherwise, I simply introduce myself by using my name. I’ve noticed that on all sides of the room there can be a tendency to look down on an individual who doesn’t share your qualifier. For instance, if someone introduces herself as a therapist-mediator, it is not surprising to hear her somewhat negative take on those without the same qualifier.

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