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Selecting a neutral mediator: some things to consider, P.3

We’ve been looking in recent posts at some of the factors that should be taken into consideration when selecting a neutral mediator. Last time, we focused on the importance of considering the specific style of mediation a mediation professional prefers to use. As we noted, it probably isn’t possible to clearly categorize every approach to mediation, but two common approaches to the process are evaluative and facilitative mediation.

A third approach to mediation, and probably one that is less used than the others, is often called transformative mediation. Whereas both evaluative and facilitative mediation are mediator driven approaches, transformative mediation is client driven. The aim of transformative mediation is essentially to empower parties to acknowledge and empathize with the other party. Unlike other forms of mediation, it does not have settlement as a hard goal, but instead emphasizes problem-solving. 

Transformative mediation may be useful for some types of disputes where strong ongoing relations are important moving forward. Most people will prefer, however, to have a stronger goal of settling their dispute, and understanding where they would stand if they were to resolve the matter in the court system.

Mediators who are proficient in one style of mediation are not necessarily proficient in another style, even if they have training in other styles of mediation, and it is important to have a good idea of how a mediator will approach a dispute before making a commitment to that mediator. One important point to mention is that it may be desirable, in some cases, to use co-mediators who have different specialties or perspectives, as long as a uniform approach to mediation is being used.

Aside from the various factors we’ve mentioned in this and recent posts, there is also the issue of cost. Typically, mediators charge by the hour, and the price is based on their qualifications. In some cases, mediators may charge only nominal fees, or may charge on a sliding scale. Just as with attorneys, mediators cannot guarantee any particular result from the mediation process, and they should not charge as if they can.

Selecting a qualified neutral mediator is not necessarily an easy thing to do, and it is important to shop around. Any selection of a mediator should be based on a careful consideration of the various factors we’ve discussed in these posts, and on a mediator’s commitment to fulfilling the legal and ethical obligations to which mediators are bound. We’ll say more about this in a future post. 

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