Mediation Job Myths
Part Two

Here is the rest of the headlines:

  • While Mediation Is Currently An Unregulated And Unlicensed Field, With Low, Formal Barriers To Entry, There Are High De Factor Barriers

  • The Field is Dominated By Attorneys and Retired Judges

  • Think Before You Buy

  • Many Aspirant Mediators Spend Money Pursuing What Is Likely An Illusory Career While Foregoing Other, More Promising Career Options

Mediation Is Currently An Unregulated/Unlicensed Field, With Low, Formal Barriers To Entry, But High De Facto Barriers

In an article entitled, Mediation Certification And Credentialing: Getting Accurate Information On Becoming A Mediator., published on her blog, Mediation Channel, ADR professional and blogger Diane Levin has warned of the dangers of an unlicensed field: "Unlike their counterparts in fields such as law, medicine, psychology, architecture, or social work, mediators in private practice are not licensed or regulated by states.

In fact, anyone can hold themselves out as a mediator even if they have no training whatsoever." Most states require only a minimum 30-40 hour course for mediators. So currently it is easy enough to pay your money, take the training and hang out a shingle. But where are you going to find work?

Let's look at the market for mediation services in the U.S. The most common dispute resolution system in the U.S. is the courts, where each side presents his/her case and a jury decides the winner. Mediation developed as an alternative to litigation, hence the name, Alternative Dispute Resolution.

In states that have granted judges authority to order parties to mediation (or made pre-litigation mediation mandatory), mediation has grown, including such areas as domestic mediation, small claims mediation, and high-end commercial mediation. But it is all generated by and around the courts and conducted, as they say, in the shadow of litigation.

In those states where courts do not have the authority to order parties to mediate there is some high-end commercial mediation but little in the way of small claims. Mediation seems to be an option that is more often than not the result of a judicial or legislative mandate than of party choice.

Many mediators in private practice, particularly in states with mandatory mediation programs, rely on court references as their primary source of mediation work. Mediators who want to be on the court roster usually have to complete a set of requirements to be added to the roster. They must complete a certain number of hours of mediation training and meet specified standards. Many court-connected mediation programs are limited to lawyers.

Beyond court ordered mediation, mediators get most of their cases from attorneys. To do this they need to be on the attorneys' short list. To be added to the short list, a mediator needs a solid track record and a stellar reputation in the field.

In my experience successful mediators are the Energizer Bunnies of the field. Most are active in ADR associations, frequently speak publicly about mediation, and publish relevant articles in professional and business journals which enhances both their visibility and reputation.

In addition, market specialization makes branching out into other markets difficult even for existing successful mediators, let alone beginners. Both reasons combine to increase the cost of entry in the market for mediator services, protect existing providers from competition, and reducing the opportunities for beginner mediators.

The Field is Dominated By Attorneys and Retired Judges

The main reason for attorney domination of the mediator selection process is that most of the private mediators' caseload is disputes already in litigation or about to be litigated. Parties with a problem first consult a lawyer to help them decide how to pursue their case, and do not consider mediation until later in the process.

Parties are unwilling to begin negotiations until they have some information on how good the other side's case is. In addition, there is a principal-agent problem as lawyers themselves are unwilling to lose control and potential legal fees from litigation by referring the case to mediation.

And, the largest mediation firm, Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, JAMS, employs mainly retired judges, who have a certain amount of "built-in trust and respectability" and a few stars with big league reputations because that's what the clients want. Divorce mediation has become widely accepted and in some cases court mandated in many areas of the country. There are some therapists who do have a part time divorce mediation practice but the majority of cases are still mediated by attorneys.

Think Before You Buy

Many aspiring mediators spend time and money pursuing what is likely an illusory career when they could be pursuing other, more promising career options.

And, don't get discouraged. There are a lot of other conflict resolution jobs you can pursue. Check out our Jobs in Conflict Resolution to get ideas about conflict resolution related jobs.

For the rest of this article please go to Mediation Jobs Myths, Part One.

In researching and writing this article I relied upon the following sources:

Mediation Career Myth-Busting: 5 Urban Legends It's Time To Debunk.

Making Peace and Making Money: Economic Analysis of the Market For Mediators in Private Practice.

Too Many Mediators, Not Enough Mediations: Is It Fair To Keep Training Neutrals With Career Prospects So Grim?

Mediation Certification And Credentialing: Getting Accurate Information On Becoming A Mediator.


  • Conflict Resolution Jobs Court ADR Programs
  • Jobs in Conflict Resolution: Lessons From the Front Lines
  • Mediation Jobs Myths, Part One
  • Mediation Jobs Myths, Part Two
  • This information doesn't mean that you should be discouraged, rather that to have a satisfying career in conflict resolution you need to broaden the scope of your search! Thank you for visiting Conflict-Resolution-Jobs.com ...I hope it has been helpful in your job search! If you enjoyed this site, and felt it provided you valuable information, please share it with a friend! Please let me know if there are other features you would like to see on the site.

    - Marsha

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