Success belongs to the client, not to the mediator

Mediation is a wonderful tool and an alternative to traditional legal processes. Mediation really shines in divorce settlements if the parties involved are willing to try to separate their financial, property and custody issues from their emotional needs and feelings.

How do people find and choose a mediator to work with? Honestly the process is much the same as how you would choose an attorney or a dentist or a roofer. You might search online, perhaps use a service like Angie’s List or even check craigslist. Many people find a mediator by a referral from a friend who has used the mediator before or possibly from a professional they may trust such as a therapist.

Mediators are not attorneys and may not give legal advice. Some attorneys are mediators though in theory they can not give legal advice as part of the mediation. If your mediator is also an attorney try to ascertain how they separate their attorney role of guidance and challenges from the mediation role of collaboration and cooperation.

No matter how you locate a potential mediator it is most important both parties feel the mediator can be neutral and fair to each party. Very simply, the mediator must make you feel at ease and also confident they are capable of handling your case. Search to find a mediator who matches your personality and style.

Every mediator has a different style, just as no two piano teachers teach exactly the same way. I recently received a call from a potential client in a post-decree matter. She was an attorney and also a mediator herself. She was looking for a mediator for her own personal post-decree issue. She quizzed me at length about my qualifications and my “close rate”. She placed a very high value on what percentage of my cases settle. I answered her that my close rate was zero. She gasped audibly. I explained that I, as the mediator, do not close or settle cases. The parties involved do the work and they settle the cases through negotiation, honesty and hard emotional processing. It is not my success; instead success belongs to the clients. She saw mediation as her process but I see mediation as the clients’ process. Clearly, we viewed the mediation process very differently.

Needless to say, I do not think she will be hiring me. And that is fine with me.