Learn About Being a Mediator
Job Description, Career Profile, Salary, and Requirements
Heavy court caseloads and rising legal costs have prompted many people to settle their legal disputes outside the courtroom through a process known as alternative dispute resolution or ADR. In fact, some states now mandate ADR before litigants are permitted to go to trial and tie up the court systems with their differences and disputes. The idea behind ADR is to allow the parties to a lawsuit to explore and negotiate solutions on their own. The case can proceed to trial when and if ADR fails.
Plaintiffs and defendants aren't tossed into a room alone to duke it out among themselves. Mediators –also known as arbitrators or conciliators – guide the ADR process and help resolve conflicts between disputing parties.
Job Duties of Mediators
Mediators facilitate negotiation and settlement between disputing parties by providing direction and encouragement, working collaboratively with them to find creative ways to reach a mutually satisfying solution, typically a compromise. They do not represent or advocate for either side in a lawsuit. Their role is to try to bring both parties to a common middle ground.
The specific duties of a mediator can vary widely depending on the court and the state but can include facilitating discussion and controlling the direction of negotiations. When a solution is achieved, the mediator may prepare court reports, social case histories, correspondence and other documents. In some cases, he might implement legislative enactments and court rules relating to a case.
Mediators are expected to keep abreast of current trends, rules, and legislation, but before they reach this point of ongoing education, they must qualify for the job in the first place. Although many mediators are lawyers and former judges, it's becoming increasingly common for non-lawyers from all backgrounds to serve.
No formal licensing or certification process exists in the U.S. for mediators, but training is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations. Some colleges and universities in the U.S. are beginning to offer advanced degrees in dispute resolution and conflict management.
Superior communication, negotiation, problem-solving, analytical and conflict resolution skills are essential. Mediators must have the ability to maintain confidences, exercise sound judgment and discretion, work collaboratively with others and foster effective working relationships with clients, courts, judicial staff, community agencies and the general public. In addition to a high level of competence, successful mediators are intuitive and able to help meet their clients’ emotional needs. Neutrality, honesty, creativity, and patience are also crucial to the mediator’s role.
Earnings for mediators range from $31,723 to $102,202 per year as of January 2017. The median annual salary is $48,923. Most mediators are employed by state and local governments, schools and universities, legal service providers, insurance carriers, and corporations.
As individuals, businesses and the courts seek to avoid the delays, publicity and high costs inherent in litigation, alternative dispute resolution is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to lawsuits. As a result, mediators are expected to experience above-average growth in employment.