Choosing a Mediator
In mediation, both parties have the opportunity to check the background and experience of the mediator unless the mediator is specified in the dispute resolution section of their contract. In civil litigation, you have no options in the choice of your judge and limited selection of the jury, if applicable.
A legal dispute can be one of the most difficult experiences a person may ever deal with. Litigation is expensive and anxiety-inducing, and mediation is a way out of those consequences.
In order for mediation to be effective, it is important that your mediator is a “good fit” for all participants for the dispute to be resolved. Here are some of the things to think about and ask when choosing a mediator:
A “Good Fit.” It’s important that you feel comfortable with your mediator. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do need to feel comfortable discussing important personal issues with your mediator. If you interview two mediators and both are equally qualified, go with the one you like more.
Level of Experience. There are many aspects to a mediator’s “experience.” How many cases has your mediator successfully mediated? Has your mediator taken trainings or received certifications? How recently? Does your mediator participate in the local mediation community? To what degree does your mediator keep up on developments in the law and trends in mediation?
Subject Matter Expertise. Does your mediator have “subject matter” expertise, i.e., expertise with your particular type of dispute? For example, if you need to mediate a trademark dispute would you rather use a mediator with intellectual property experience or with divorce experience? Is it important to you that your mediator has relevant experience before his or her career as mediator? For example, many family mediators are former (or current) family law attorneys. On the other hand, some mediators hold themselves out as general practice mediators and focus more on the communication aspect of mediation and less on the subject matter aspect.
Style of Mediation. Mediation style is an important consideration and should not be overlooked when selecting your mediator. Ask your prospective mediator what style (or styles) of mediation he or she practices.
Other Considerations. Other considerations in choosing a mediator may include the reputation of the mediator, whether the mediator is male or female, whether the mediator is a lawyer, how much they charge, their availability, etc.
There is no single “right” factor when choosing a mediator. Someone with lots of expertise who seems like a great fit might have little experience, and that should not necessarily disqualify that mediator. You should call a couple different mediators and spend a few minutes talking to each of them. If you like what you hear, schedule a consultation so you can get a better sense of who you would like to hire
Michael Kerry Burke has extensive experience in mediating disputes, and is a certified mediator. Whether you are a client facing litigation and considering mediation, or a lawyer looking for a qualified and effective mediator, call to schedule an interview.