What does a Professional Mediator do?

Cassie L. Damewood

A professional mediator helps resolve legal matters and disputes between two or more parties. They often are a great alternative to a lawyer because they can aid in settling disputes outside of the court system, eliminating the long wait time often involved in court cases. Fees for mediators typically are less than a lawyer as well. Mediated cases are normally argued in a less formal setting, such as a conference room or private quarters.

Mediators help parties settle their disputes.
Mediators help parties settle their disputes.

In the United States, professional mediators are relatively new to the realm of law practitioners. Although the mediator profession has existed for quite a long time, the title of professional mediator was not officially recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1987. At that time, the process of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) was made official, and the position of professional mediator, also called a conciliator or arbitrator, was recognized as a viable professional.

Unlike an attorney, a mediator does not consider the interests of only one party in negotiations. Instead, his goal is to help all the parties reach an agreement that is acceptable to everyone. This requires a great amount of objectivity and the ability to successfully direct all involved parties toward an amenable solution where no one feels they've lost a battle.

Similar to the duties of an attorney, a mediator must gather information pertinent to the case and prepare related documents, such as summaries, reports and testimonials. He may also be required to verify information and research comparable cases in order to cite precedents and parallels. The latest knowledge of associated rulings, trends and legislative decisions is also important for a mediator to competently perform his job.

In addition to gathering sufficient supportive information and competently citing case histories and sources, a professional mediator is required to have superior negotiating skills. In order to reach solutions acceptable to all parties, he must carefully weigh their wants and needs and provide creative alternatives for a resolution. The ability to guide his clients along the path to an outcome agreeable to all is an invaluable skill for a mediator.

Similar to a therapist or counselor, a successful professional mediator not only maintains composure, but also instills a sense of equanimity in his clients. Since volatile situations and heartfelt emotions are often involved in negotiations, it is the mediator’s job to recognize conflicts before they escalate and diffuse them with poise and serenity. Treating the concerns of each involved party with discretion and empathy is essential for a mediator to be successful and please his clientele.

The competent mediator must also maintain a professional and respectable rapport with court and judicial personnel. The compassionate interchange with his clients must be balanced with the professionalism exercised with those involved in providing legal support and documentation. Meetings with a wide variety of involved parties and agencies require excellent communication and social skills.

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