How to Become a Mediator

By Chuck Doran, MWI Mediator

If you are interested in learning how to become a mediator, you’ll be surprised to learn that there are surprisingly few requirements to becoming a mediator in the United States. Here in Boston, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 233 Section 23C outlines the confidentiality protections for mediators who have completed at least thirty-hours of mediation training and are accountable to a dispute resolution organization that has been in existence for at least three years.

With no national standards in place, each state has their own unique set of rules for becoming a mediator. Some state court systems have internal requirements and certification processes (FL, NC, SC, and VA, for example) and other states have no specific rules regarding the practice of mediation. The rules even vary in some states depending on the type of case you are mediating, including whether a mediator should have a degree in a field such as law or psychology. In fact, both the American Bar Association’s Section of Dispute Resolution as well as the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules (see Rule 8b(ii)) state that academic degrees and professional licensure are not necessary or sufficient criteria for becoming a mediator.

If you’re interested in becoming a mediator, here are a few things to consider:

  • Take a mediation training:    Before signing up, check your state’s requirements for mediators. You can do this by searching your state’s court and legislative websites for relevant statutes and rules relating to the practice of mediation. It’s helpful to distinguish between conducting private mediations and cases referred from a court to which these rules often apply. Once you know your state’s requirements, sign up for a mediation training program. This guide on “Five Considerations When Choosing a Mediation Training” will help you figure out how to choose a quality mediation training program that meets your specific needs.

Click here to download a free guide to choosing a mediation training

  • Get some experience mediating actual cases.  Finding cases to mediate as a newly trained mediator can be difficult (sort of like trying to establish credit when you don’t have credit). Even if you have clients and cases lined up, some rules require new mediators to gain experience under the tutelage of a more experienced mediator or to be accountable to a dispute resolution organization. After your training, you can arrange to co-mediate cases with a more experienced mentor or you can find out if your mediation training provider will organize opportunities for you to mediate after your training. For instance, MWI offers the opportunity to mediate civil cases in our District & Municipal Court Mediation Program upon the successful completion of our mediation training program and acceptance on our panel.

Despite the profession’s relative low bar of entry, success in the field is not easy or guaranteed. There are many factors that distinguish successful mediators who are booked out for months, are repeatedly recommended by clients and counsel, and are known as the “mediator’s mediator” in their area. It takes time to understand how the process and the field works, to build your skills, and to build a reputation as an effective mediator. (More on this in a future blog.)

One truth that has kept me motivated and busy is that conflict is a growth industry there will always be a need for mediators. What do you think?

I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section below or feel free to email me at cdoran@mwi.org.

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