What criteria should you use when selecting a mediator? One of the most important factors to consider is the reputation a mediator has among their colleagues. Peer review will often be the best indicator of the most important qualities that every good mediator must possess; things like integrity, creativity, dedication to confidentiality, and knowledge based not only on formal education, but on the type of life experience that allows for a true understanding of diverse perspectives.
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Put simply, most disputes revolve around differences of opinion concerning the facts, the law or both. Even if there aren’t any pure legal issues involved, a seasoned attorney will bring analytical skills to the table, literally, that can separate the wheat from the chaff and provide an organized methodology to effectively address the components of a dispute. It would be highly improper for a mediator to give legal advice, but if attorneys are representing the parties to a dispute it can be extremely beneficial to utilize the services of a mediator who is also an attorney since they can provide a truly objective view of the legal issues involved –- something that is often difficult for a party’s attorney to do given the duty to zealously advocate for the client’s best interests.
A skilled mediator will not attempt to script the process, but will instead act like a creative catalyst providing guidance designed to give the parties the best possible chance to reach an acceptable settlement. That said, in order to be effective the mediator must at all times remain a neutral, disinterested third party, and not be concerned with the outcome of the mediation. Attempting to force a settlement is not only ineffectual, it is virtually always counter- productive. That is not to say that the mediator should merely be a passive messenger, of course, and those that are the most effective have learned to utilize the real power of communicating the type of insights and observations that can only come from an objective, dispassionate viewpoint.
The role of the mediator can vary considerably depending on the parties’ desires and the circumstances surrounding the dispute. There are a variety of different mediation formats that can be utilized to provide the optimum setting best suited for resolving a particular dispute, including facilitative, evaluative, caucus and transformative methods, as well as a mediation/arbitration hybrid known as Med-Arb. RESOLVE Mediation Services can help you determine which of these methods is best suited to address any particular dispute.
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In the end, studies have consistently shown that the quality of the mediator is a significant factor in how "successful" mediation is rated by the parties, not necessarily defined by whether or not the dispute was actually settled, but based on the arguably more important criteria regarding how satisfied the participants are with the mediation process.
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