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Selecting a mediator: looking at the issue of neutrality, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking about the critical importance of neutrality in the mediation process. Because mediators have a duty to be neutral toward both parties, you cannot use the same criteria to select a mediator that you would use to select an attorney. Mediators may, of course, be seasoned attorneys, but the point is that it is not the purpose of a mediator to zealously advocate for any parties in a dispute.

As we mentioned last time, neutrality can be a somewhat subjective factor. Among a handful of mediators who are all equally competent with respect to the mediation process, perhaps only one or two will be suitable for a given dispute. Cultural factors, personal background, personality, and other neutrality-related factors that are not in the control of the mediator can all come into play when considering who is the best person for the job.

Because of the somewhat subjective nature of selecting a suitable mediator, asking for recommendations from those who have participated in the mediation process is not necessarily the best way to decide on a mediator. Personal recommendations can certainly be taken, but it probably going to be more helpful to rely on independent research.

One helpful way to do independent research in preparation for mediation is to utilize independent, neutral sources which profile and evaluate mediators. One example if a group that does this is the International Mediation Institute, which is an open search engine that allows users to search for mediators meeting specified requirements and read comments about how mediators’ have handled prior disputes. That being said, individuals can certainly get a feel for the competency, characteristics and priorities of a mediator by reading their own materials and advertisements. 

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