How to Choose a Mediator

A legal dispute can be one of the most difficult experiences a person may ever deal with. It is important that your mediator is a “good fit” for all participants and that the mediator is effective in resolving the dispute. The following is a list of considerations in 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? Experience is important, but it is not necessarily the most important consideration. All great mediators were once brand-new mediators with no experience!

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 has a legal background or a mental health background, how much they charge, their availability, etc.

There is no single “right” factor when choosing a mediator. Someone with lots of expertise in an area who seems like a great fit might have little experience mediating, 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.


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