Friday, October 13, 2006

Does the Mediator Need to be an Attorney?

Answer: Not necessarily, although it may be helpful depending on your case.

Having a law degree or having practiced law as an attorney are not requirements to be a mediator although many mediators are also attorneys. Other mediators have backgrounds in the mental health professions or other related or unrelated fields and, like attorney/mediators, have a strong interest in conflict resolution.

Generally, disputes that go to mediation are based on legal rights and/or obligations. If your mediator has practiced law in the areas involved in your case, the attorney/mediator may have better insight into what lies ahead for your case than a non-attorney mediator might. An attorney may also have a better handle on the legal aspects of your case such as legal standards of proof, admissibility and evidentiary issues which may affect the outcome of your case at trial. These are issues that, depending on your case, you will be focusing most of your pre-trial attention on and it may be very helpful to have a mediator who can evaluate your case based on his or her own experiences as an attorney or as a judge.

However, some non-attorney mediators have enough experience from their mediation practices to have built up such insight and knowledge despite having never practiced law.

There may also be some cases which are so emotionally difficult for one or both of the parties that a mediator with a mental health background might be the better choice than someone trained and experienced in the law and in the courtroom.

There are extremely competent mediators with expertise in a wide variety of areas. Finding the right mediator depends on the type of dispute you have and what is important in your particular case. Talking to a potential mediator about his or her background and mediation styles is generally welcomed by most mediators. I certainly welcome it!

1 comment:

Brian Schremp said...

While expertise in a particular area may help the mediator understand the issues in a case. It is up to the parties attorney to advise them in legal matters or to suggest a possible outcome in a case.

I am a non-attorney mediator from Florida and the lead ADR trainer for the International Ocean Institute