Monday, June 18, 2007

Recommendations for Mediators

Mediators rely on the positive recommendations from their mediation participants in order to get new mediation clients. Most mediators simply cross their fingers and hope that their existing and past clients are saying good things about them. This only really works when there are attorneys involved in the case.

Attorneys talk to each other about their successful mediations and who they recommend to mediate different types of cases. When attorneys prepare to mediate their cases, one of the first things they do is exchange an informal short list of mediators they would like to have involved to help resolve the case. Inevitably, there are mediators on the other attorney's list with whom the first attorney is unfamiliar. That attorney will then call around to his or her colleagues to get information on the unknown mediator(s), asking questions such as: Is she a strong mediator? Is she sympathetic? Is she creative? Is she persistent? Is she knowledgeable in this area of the law? Did the parties and attorneys feel it was a fair process? etc.

However, non-attorneys typically do not have the benefit of calling around to their colleagues to get such information. Instead, I often have unrepresented parties who are interested in my mediation services first ask me for recommendations as to my neutrality and fairness. I have at times felt comfortable asking individual parties to provide a direct reference to prospective parties. However, that is not a good long-term solution and I am not comfortable having previous mediation participants contacted by numerous people or on an ongoing basis. I strongly feel that is asking too much.

To help unrepresented mediation participants as well as attorneys representing their clients, I now include as part of every mediation, a post-mediation report card which asks each participant and attorney to provide feedback on the mediation, my mediation style, my ability to communicate and work well with diverse individuals and complex financial or coverage issues and my ability to help resolve the dispute to everyone's satisfaction.

I know some mediators have long employed a request for written feedback from each mediation as part of their ongoing policies. Until now, I have thought that was a bit awkward. I now realize it is not asking too much for this one-time written feedback and instead saves everyone the time and inconvenience of being contacted over and over by individuals wanting to hear the participant's feedback on my mediation services. So - thank you.

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