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A Day in the Life of a Mediator

Being a professional mediator is all about conflict resolution, and so the job demands a person with excellent reasoning, problem-solving, and peace-making abilities. When two parties have a dispute and wish to avoid the legal intricacies of litigation, they may call in a mediator to facilitate an equitable solution. While many are suspicious of lawyers and attorneys, mediators are more often attributed with qualities of wisdom, trustworthiness, and neutrality. Unlike lawyers and judges, who evaluate, assess, and decide for others,mediators help participating parties evaluate, assess, and decide for themselves. Parties wishing to avoid the delays, high costs, publicity, and ill will brought on by litigation look to mediators as a more peaceful, inexpensive, and expedient alternative. The mediator’s job is to listen, sort through differences between the two parties involved in a dispute, and find common ground upon which to ascertain a solution. A good mediator is honest, neutral, and encouraging; listens well; and has excellent communication skills. Helping two parties arrive at a mutually agreeable solution also takes a fair amount of creativity. Mediation is considered a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Although ADR sounds like a terrible syndrome, it’s in fact a more Zenlike approach to conflict resolution, with mediators as the master practitioners. Corporations, government agencies, community organizations, schools, neighborhoods, and even families will turn to mediators when they seek mutually acceptable answers to their problems. Examples of conflicts they work to resolve include labor/management issues, health care disputes, environmental/public policy issues, and international conflicts.

Paying Your Dues

The educational background of a professional mediator varies widely. A fair number in the field hold law degrees, while others may not even hold a bachelor’s degree. Most important is an education in mediation, whether taken as part of an undergraduate degree or as individual training courses. University degrees in public policy, law, and related fields also provide helpful backgrounds. While few states require licenses or certification to practice mediation, most individuals in the profession have completed training and pledged to abide by certain ethical standards.

Present and Future

Historically, mediation has been used to settle many different types of disputes. Mediation was a solution sought after by warring Greek city-states. Catholic popes became mediators between European countries during the Renaissance, and recently, Bishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter have served as mediators in unstable parts of the world. In the business realm, mediation has long been used as a source for conflict resolution. Since 1887, the American government has promoted arbitration and mediation for contractual disputes involving commerce. Today, increasing numbers of colleges and universities offer degrees in dispute resolution and conflict management. The field is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations in the coming years.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

Mediators don’t often work irregular hours. A dispute may arise at any time, but unless there is a pending deadline, mediators tend to work eight-hour days. For the first several years, mediators will stick to smaller problems to build their reputations.

FIVE YEARS OUT

As a mediator’s experience increases, they are called on to help resolve larger disputes. Mediators aren’t usually called on to travel, although some of the more experienced mediators travel extensively to help resolve disputes anywhere in the world.

TEN YEARS OUT

Highly competent mediators who have lasted 10 years or more may be called on to handle high-profile cases ranging from corporate disputes to international peacekeeping missions.