Archive for the ‘certification’ Category

Non Attorney Mediators- Not Welcome?!?

August 10, 2009

Non Attorney Mediators- Not Welcome!?

Recently someone said having mediators on court mediation rosters be limited to those who are also an attorney was a reasonable rule.

I do not agree.

I vehemently disagree.

Things are dangerously becoming more and more an “us versus them” situation. The two sides to the “us and them” issue are non attorney mediators and mediators who also happen to be attorneys. I happen to belong to the “us” side.
Before I continue, let’s go back to the first paragraph. I ask each of you reading this, is it reasonable to have only mediator’s who are also attorneys be allowed on court rosters? Please, leave some feedback. Let’s hear it from both sides.
By the way, a reason the person gave for the law degree requirement is because of the education you then know the mediator has which then qualifies them to be on the roster. Yes, being educated and possessing a law degree gives a mediator a wealth of insider knowledge of the courts and the understanding of the various jargon and processes but does that translate into a requisite for a mediator?
If this continues, the mediation field for those without law degrees is going to shrink and I believe it can eradicate people like me from being involved. As I type this, I realized perhaps an important point to make- the ‘reasonable comment’ was in relation to a court service where the mediators will be paid. This brings up another question I have- is it ok for mediators without a law degree to mediate in the courts as long as they are volunteers? When it comes to getting paid, is that just for attorneys?
What is a mediator without a law degree to do? To answer my own question with a question, does it matter if I applied for one of these positions and said that I have a Masters Degree in Dispute Resolution? Surely that would fulfill the education requirement… right?
Another potential way to prevent the “us” from losing out to the “them” is (drum roll please) certification. Yes, certification. It seems like all talk on the Internet recently has been around the certification process of mediators. Could a national or international certification scheme help mediators in this case? [read recent comments on mediation certification at Mediation Channel,, Negotiation Law Blog and the Ombuds Blog]
Mediators need to increase their power and certification might be the way to do that. Yet another question for everyone- is it healthy that the ABA’s section on Dispute Resolution is arguably one of the most powerful ADR groups in the country, maybe in the world? What does that say for the field since it is an attorney based organization?

If the ACR could get a certification scheme up and running that could help level the playing field that seems to be titling in a direction heavily towards “them”. I recently became certified by the International Mediation Institute and they very well can potentially help as well. What I particularly like about IMI is 1) they are a non-profit organization and 2) they do not offer any services but are instead just a location for people to find qualified mediators.
The way I see certification helping is I think it will make choosing certified mediators become a ‘reasonable’ choice. A proper certification program, which I purposely will not go into here and that is a separate issue in itself, would give its mediators credibility as they have proved through the certification process they are educated, knowledgeable and have the requisite skills needed to mediate. There, no law degree is required anymore!
I would like to keep this short as many people have already given opinions recently on the pro and con side of certification of mediators. What I am trying to do is show a new angle of how it might benefit mediators.
It does not have to be “us versus them” but under a united certification plan, we all can be “us” under a process where a law degree does not exclude people. Certification Follow Up

June 11, 2009

Jim Melamed Responds to My Post

In a follow up to my post [here], Jim Melamed, CEO of replied to the questions and concerns I raised. Below, and with his permission, I am posting his unedited reply.

A few responses:
First, what is doing with our new certification program is not an end-all, be-all answer, but a meaningful beginning, particularly for the private sector. Sometimes it is worth doing “something” in the right direction, even if imperfect, particularly when the leading option is doing nothing and our industry languishing or not being at its best.
Our ultimate goal is to create a context where the best of mediation is emphasized and preserved (voluntary, impartial, self-determination, transparency, disclosure, maximization), rather than mediation coming to be defined as simply another hoop, another cog, in the legal system. As there is no National Mediation Association nor an International Mediation Association to look out for the best interests of mediation, has found itself compelled to act. By our actions, I would expect we will break a bit of a log jam and all kinds of new, progressive geographic and practice area standards will emerge. This is all very good.
The world of mediation is so big, literally global, and also both within and beyond our traditional legals contexts of courts and administrative agencies. Because mediation is “everywhere,” it is nearly impossible to try to manage the movement from a “regulatory” quality control perspective. This is one of the reasons for so much inertia for so long.
Our most powerful driving force is to grow mediation in the private sector as a wise consumer choice. Our biggest fear is that the historic gatekeepers for resolving conflict, the courts and due process agencies, will come to swallow mediation the mediation industry. Yes, we need mediation programs in courts and administrative agencies, but we surely should not force people to file lawsuits and administrative complaints just to access mediation services. It makes no sense to force people to legalize and polarize so as to gain access to publicly sanctioned and subsidized mediation services. People should additionally be encouraged to seek mediation early, on their own, without the need to resort to a lawsuit. For this, we need a vibrant private sector of mediation services.
And, in fact, there is a huge amount of mediation (most mediation I suggest) that is taking place outside of the courts. Here the goal is commonly to avoid any kind of formal legal filing. So, it is absolutely critical that we do not look exclusively to the courts to define mediation nor mediation qualification standards. We need to encourage early mediation and we need to set in place industry infrastructure to encourage those who want to be mediators (beyond the courts as well as within).
Note such recent and large scale initiatives as foreclosure mediation, mass disaster mediation, marital mediation . . . we need to continue to provide a context and encouragement for all of this wonderful growth. This is’s goal: to grow the global mediation industry based on the intrinsic value that we “bring to the table.” We should not be exclusvely beholden to courts and agencies to sing the praises of mediation.
And so, it is in this context that I see to directly answer your questions:
Yes, the standards set a relatively high bar. In providing a certification to those with 100 hours of mediation training, 500 hours of mediation experience (and who provide comprehensive required transparency and disclosure), we have moved the bar higher as we think the credibility of our industry requires this. This is particularly the case as many community and court programs may only require 30 or 40 hours of training and perhaps 10 cases or the like. So, yes, we are raising the bar. We think that our industry will only be fully respected when we respect ourselves and setting higher standards is a part of this.
Note that we are operating in the private sector, so our assumption is that anyone can mediate and that “the right mediator is the one the parties want.” So, for example, we will continue to display all those who want to be in our directory and we continue to allow mediators to self evaluate as per our Qualifications Disclosure Program (see All of this is in the exact same directory as will display our certified mediators.
With our new certification program, for those who meet the standards, we are, in fact, providing (literally) a “gold star,” because it is our opinion that this dedication and experience deserve to be rewarded. We are assuming that there will be additional court, administrative, geographic (state) and practice area certification opportunities made available, and we applaud this. We see this as signs of a mediation industry that is maturing.
Now, as to cost, it is important that we develop a sustainable program. For certification programs to be developed and not continued would be a tragedy, and so we have sought to fund this program “on its own two feet (needs to pay for itself). You are correct that the total cost for the first year of Membership, Certification Review and Approval would be $349/yr total and then the annual renewal cost would be $249/yr total. We hope and believe that this is a most reasonable investment for those who want to be successful mediators, particularly in the private sector. We believe that brings huge value to the mediation marketplace and that it is a very reasonable thing for private sector mediators to be involved with as well as other leading mediation associations and initiatives.
One of my takeaways from Jeff’s comments is that is well-served to continue to think of the interests of mediation students, volunteers and those getting started as well. In our “defense,” does provide robust information (over 5000 articles and resources), video, etc., all for FREE to the entire world. now attracts an average of 14,000 daily visitor sessions. We are an effective bridge between private professional mediators and those who need and desire our services. It is through our membership and certification programs that we are able to fund all of this.
So, this is a long-winded answer to some very good questions. We think it critical to support private sector development of mediation, in addition to court and agency programs, and it is to help promote the best of mediation and to stimulate this private sector growth (critically including for those who are not attorneys) that we have chosen to act. We believe that it is critical that the mediation industry defines itself, at our best, rather than our being reliant or imposed upon by court or administrative definitions that to some extent threaten to turn mediation into just another docket management device.
We are learning and improving every day. This type of dialog is immeasurably helpful to as we seek to ever-improve. If nothing else, we hope that we have stirred the water so that more and more people can become engaged in the discussion of how mediation can be best supported on a global, society-wide basis.
Jim Melamed, CEO

Did You Say Certified!?!

June 8, 2009

Jump in The Discussion!

Over at Mediation Channel, there is a very good discussion going on about the issue of a mediator being certified and the term ‘certified’ being used.

Should anyone be using it? What criteria should be used?

I mentioned over at that site that I am in fact certified! These are the steps needed in order to get the status of being certified with the Safe Horizon Mediation Center:

  • 40 Hour Basic Mediation Training
  • 14 Week Apprenticeship (once a week for 3 hours)
  • This allows a mediator to co-mediate cases at the center.
  • Pass a video test and then you can mediate cases by yourself. The test must be completed within 3 months of finishing the apprenticeship.
  • After passing the video, you can mediate cases solo
  • After mediating 30 cases alone, you become certified!


How did you become certified?

See the comments at Mediation Channel [here] and/or leave a comment below.

New Certification Program

June 4, 2009 Announces Certification Program

I am sure many readers already know about this as either a) you also read other blogs and/or b) you read

Below I will post a roundup of all the coverage it has received, as well as opinions. The only comment I have is from the Q & A (first link below). Setting aside the issue if it is needed or worthy, I wonder why, that it is only going to be available to a very limited amount of people? Why not have a few tiers?

As Jim admits, of the 3,000 mediators listed in the site’s directory, only about 500 would be accepted… and that is if they even apply. If the concern is how certain groups (the court programs are used as an example) are not staying true to the ideals of mediation, what impact will this program have if only a small group of mediators receive this certification?

Staying with the issue on court based mediation, I would think most are volunteer mediators. How many would want to pay the fee to become a member (as required to apply for certification) and then another fee to become certified? How many volunteers would meet the 500 hour requirement? Another thought that comes to mind is that the parties in court based mediations do not even get to choose the mediator.

Enough of me and my questions. Does anyone else have any? I know no program (yet at least) will be the complete package to solve all the issues and problems in the mediation world. My intention is not to be hard on this new program. If anything, it has sparked my interest and that is what made me think of these questions.

Onto the web round up of coverage:

* The announcement from

* The top 3 bloggers– Diane, Vickie and Geoff asked Jim Melamed, CEO of some questions about the new program [here]
* Organizational Ombuds Blog (in depth review, worth a read)
* Mediation Channel (announcing it)
* Ombuds Blog (nice bullet points)
* Negitiation Law Blog (same as the first link)
* Mediator Blah Blah (Geoff broke the news first)