How to Choose your Mediator – 5 Things to Consider
by Lauren McGuirl
In the UK alone there are over 600 registered mediators. Globally, there are thousands.
So, how do you ensure you choose the right mediator for your case?
Fundamentally, be curious and exploratory.
Ask for recommendations from colleagues, people who have mediated before and/or an independent dispute resolution provider.
It is important to note that you have significant influence over the choice of the mediator, regardless of whether you are the party proposing mediation, or responding to the request.
Here are 5 things to consider when it comes to choosing your mediator:
Experience and Background
The 2018 CEDR Mediation Audit reported a near 50/50 split between mediators who were and were not, legally qualified.
Traditionally the mediation market was predominantly composed of lawyers, whereas today there is an eclectic mix of professionals from fields as diverse as PR & Communications, Human Resources, Medicine and Architecture.
Depending on the case, would someone with legal, or content experience – an accountant, surveyor or engineer – be most suited?
Equally, mediators are increasingly developing specialisms, particularly in the field of Employment & Workplace and Clinical Negligence/Personal Injury but there are those who are primarily focused on Intellectual Property disputes and cases that involve inter-cultural and diversity issues, for example.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to dive down and enquire about the minutiae of a mediator’s experience, both professionally and as a mediator.
For example, you may have a dispute over a commercial lease, a relatively broad area.
But your case may have issues relating to noise levels in the building. Don’t be afraid to ask if the mediator has experience in this particular issue.
Personality and Style
A core aspect of mediation is rapport building between the mediator and the parties.
Therefore, it is important to match the personality and style of the parties, as well as the lawyers and experts (if in attendance) with that of the mediator.
This is best achieved by getting in contact with mediators to learn more about them and their practice.
Dispute resolution providers will often have a large and professionally diverse panel. By working closely with the clients and lawyers they can assist with ‘mediator match-making’. The size of their panel also means they can facilitate discussions with multiple different mediators, giving the client a greater choice than otherwise might be possible.
Also, take a look at their social media presence and research articles they have written or videos or podcasts they have been a part of.
Attaining and Maintaining Professional Standards
There are instances where businesses have instructed a professional to mediate a dispute because of their reputation within the sector, without checking if they have any formal mediation training.
Technical expertise and good inter-personal skills alone are not enough to ensure an individual will be an effective mediator.
Attaining a mediator qualification with a reputable and credible training provider gives certainty that the mediator has the skills and knowledge needed to manage a mediation.
All mediators should follow a recognised Code of Conduct that provides a framework of ethical, professional and behavioural principles. Some provide basic principles such as the EU Code of Conduct for Mediators while others, such as the CEDR Code of Conduct for Third Party Neutrals, go into more detail.
Further to this, does the mediator meet the continuing professional development standards as required by the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) and are they registered with this governing body?
One of the principal benefits of mediation is that it is a cost-effective mechanism for resolving disputes.
It is important to match the mediator in this respect to your dispute. A wide spectrum of rates are available on the market place so be sure to enquire on this point.
There are also services available which offer mediation services at a fixed-rate which can be effective for disputes of a lower monetary value.
Alongside the fees of the mediator, it is important to factor in potential travel and venue costs, if applicable (see below).
Online Dispute Resolution
Mediating online has taken off since early 2020, principally due to the necessity of remote engagement because of COVID-19.
Mediators, in CEDR’s experience, are increasingly adept at conducting mediations online and are delivering settlement rates on par with mediating in-person.
That being said, there will be varying degrees to which mediators are comfortable using videoconferencing platforms and if you are considering mediating online, it is worth checking their credentials in this space.
Help When you Need it
Setting up a mediation can be challenging. Alongside choosing your mediator there may be issues around forum (online or in-person), documentary exchange, agreements to mediate and so forth alongside other logistical issues.
On all of these points, CEDR, as a neutral dispute resolution provider is able to provide guidance and support to parties and lawyers looking to mediate, regardless of the size of the claim.