Last year I celebrated my 20th anniversary as a mediator. Clearly, for me, mediation is not just a job or a business, its my life's work. During the last twenty years I have studied conflict and conflict management (mediation being a process of conflict management) and I have mediated criminal, commercial, workplace, and divorce disputes. Today, I believe that my most important work is as a mediation trainer and that my legacy will be my many students, who use mediation formally and informally, to make the world a better place.
As I look around at the current state of the mediation industry five things continue to annoy me.
1. Professional mediators are trained in three different venues: law schools, University based masters and PhD programs in dispute resolution, and 40-hour “Certification” programs offered by private providers. Each group of students leaves training with different needs. These needs are often unacknowledged and they remain unmet as follow-up/future training is typically limited.
2. There are limited employment opportunities for mediators and the majority of Mediators and Conflict Management Consultants are self employed. So, training programs should (but most do not) include substantial marketing components.
3. The “popular” training model - 40-hours of classroom training, followed by a short, on-site (often difficult to acquire) mentorship - was adopted in order to quickly train professionals coming into the profession with experience and knowledge from a related field. This model has relegated mediation practice to a secondary position. Re-positioning would require expanding and enhancing the training period and including a true practicum component that is supervised by a practitioner trained in mentoring.
4. In today’s competitive marketplace branding is a critical component of any marketing plan. This means that mediators (and other ADR professionals) need to have clear niche expertise. So, basic training must be followed by advanced training in the niche area.
5. In order to further the process of mediation and the profession of mediator we must have lobbyists that represent our concerns, on both the state and national levels, with legislatures and executive lawmakers. And, we must have PR spokespeople who carry our message to the public.