Sunday, February 25, 2007

Information for Students of Mediation

As an alum of UC Hastings, I recently had the privilege of participating in a "Small Firm Table Talk" in which dozens of current law students sit down to chat informally and one-on-one with dozens of solo and smaller firm practitioners. The purpose is to allow law students to explore different fields of law as well as alternatives to jumping into large firms which may not provide the career satisfaction for which many graduates are searching and which many of us have found.

In addition to speaking with students who were interested in the legal fields of employment law and family law (two of my specialties), every student who found his or her way to my table wanted to know all about my mediation practice. Some of the more common questions I received were along these lines: "How did you get started in your mediation practice and what do you recommend I do while I'm in law school to help me become a mediator later?"

One of my suggestions to students was to get involved with one of Hastings' well-respected clinical programs, the "Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution" which gives classroom training as well as hands on training with real cases to mediate through the "Mediation Clinic." I also recommended community-based mediation programs and trainings if the Hastings Mediation Clinic was not an option or in addition to that course and fieldwork.

As additional advice for those students, or any other potential student of mediation, I would like to guide you to mediator Vickie Pynchon's always interesting and useful blog "Settle It Now Negotiation Blog." I have pasted a short but helpful excerpt here for potential mediators and provide the link to the full article on "How to Start a Mediation Practice" so you can read more details and advice from Vickie's own experiences.

Here is the excerpt:

When first asked for my “business plan” by someone for whom planning does not mean picking up Chinese on the way home, I had only five principles at the ready:
1) Be conscious;
2) Be teachable;
3) Be of service;
4) Always say “yes” to a mediation request; and,
5) Be the exception to the rule.

That was it.

Well, and Also, I . . . . . . gave my new business a name (duly registering it with the proper authorities), “bought” it business cards (free at Vista Print) and built it a web-site (with Yahoo’s free web builder).

Then I dove off the cliff by (gasp) quitting my day-job and
  • joining every professional organization where my market was likely to congregate;
    sticking out my hand to say “hi, I’m Vickie Pynchon” whether I wanted to or not;
    taking every mediation class that intrigued me;
  • volunteering my mediation services – mainly on the Los Angeles Superior Court Pro Bono Panel – so that I could practice my skills before rolling them out to former colleagues;
    talking passionately about mediation whenever asked;
  • writing articles about my new profession and submitting them to publications (which always need content);
  • asking seasoned mediators if I could observe them in action and for tips on commencing a mediation practice;
  • offering to be of service whenever I could to whomever I could;
  • speaking about mediation and negotiation skills to attorneys free of charge;
  • speaking to local business groups about matters of interest to them;
  • attending law related and mediation conferences and workshops;
  • taking people in my market out to lunch; out for coffee, etc.;
  • becoming engaged in community activities again;
  • liberating my frustrated inner ad-executive by making post-cards about my new practice and filling them with catchy slogans and useful information;
  • being of service to the organizations I joined (they always need volunteers); and,
  • making too many plans, so that when some of them didn’t pan out it was ok with me.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

Thanks Paula! I think starting a business must be a LITTLE like having babies (about which I know nothing) or getting married (about which I know a LOT). You take the leap semi-narcotized with hope and denial in equal measures; take enormous pride from the smallest achievements (my "very first check" for mediating is not that far behind me; I danced around the room with it, chortling to my husband -- who once again must have asked himself about the wisdom of marrying me); and, a great support network of bright, talented and caring mediators grow up around you, without whom there's no way I, at any rate, could be doing ANY of what I'm doing now, including my favorite bloggers. It's all gratitude and gravy at this stage. Best, Vickie