Characteristics of Top Mediators

Urska Velikonja, LL.B., 2003, Harvard Law School , a Teaching Fellow at the Department of Economics at Harvard, recently published an article, Making Peace and Making Money: Economic Analysis of the Market for Mediators in Private Practice .

While the general content of the article may be too arcane for our non-mediator audience, it does contain an enlightening and comprehensive summary of those characteristics generally associated with leading mediators in the field.   The author observed as follows:

“A good mediator is hard to describe and is usually referred to as “you’ll know it when you see it.”   The reason is that, as one mediator put it, “mediation is much more complex than litigation.”   It requires excellent mediation skills, complex analytical skills and the ability to quickly process a substantial amount of information.   It requires the ability to move cases relatively swiftly toward settlement.   It also requires excellent interpersonal skills: the best mediators are good listeners, who can “read” people and have the intuitive ability to sense the things that are not being said.   They are compassionate and empathetic, and can focus all their intellectual energy on the dispute in front of them.   They are trustworthy and able to convey their trustworthiness to the parties.   They enjoy and are comfortable communicating with all types of people, and they are likeable.   Great mediators are creative and able to teach parties how to mediate during the mediation without controlling the process.   They are “chameleon-like:” usually evaluative, but able to adjust their demeanor and mediation style to the party and the dispute.   They are also calm and patient, and have both a sense of humor and a sense of drama.   They can quietly signal to their clients that if the dispute can be settled, they are the ones that can settle it.   They are also good businessmen, who market themselves well; not by using traditional marketing channels, but by always performing well in front of clients and their attorneys.   Many, if not most, top mediators have formal or informal business plans and excellent case managers, who they pay well.   Great mediators also tend to be the most hard-working and committed to the profession of mediation.   They are “mediation activists:’ they found, lead, and join professional mediation associations, publish, and teach.   And most importantly, the mediators who are frequently selected by attorneys, are the ones who have been able to stay in the field long enough to develop a reputation as great mediators.”

Not a bad checklist to see if your mediator measures up.

John J. Upchurch


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