Tips for Selecting a Mediator
Mediators are trained in conflict resolution. They have experience helping people to communicate better with each other, even when it seems impossible for any agreement to be reached. For mediation to be effective, you should be comfortable with your mediator and discuss your needs openly.
- Mediators come from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
- Experience and training are important.
- Mediators are good listeners; they keep the discussion going.
- Mediators keep information confidential.
Finding a mediator.
- For a family issue that is already in the courts, contact a Family Court Coordinator.
- For other types of cases or problems that are not part of a court case, contact the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office or look at the on-line Dispute Resolution Practitioners Directory.
- If a dispute involves a business, check with the Better Business Bureau, which provides an arbitration and mediation program for cases involving it's members.
- If a dispute involves your neighborhood or community, consider contacting one of Maryland's Community Mediation Centers.
Selection Criteria to Consider
- Location. There may be multiple sessions. Can you participants and the mediator travel? Is the mediator’s office convenient?
- Subject area experience. If your dispute is in a particular area such as divorce, business, or environmental issues, you are likely to want to choose someone with experience in similar types of issues. Some people believe it is important that the mediator know something about the subject matter of the dispute. Others believe that subject matter expertise is not of primary importance except in specialized areas like environmental, domestic, or highly technical types of disputes. Other people believe that it is not important that the mediator know the subject matter area of the dispute as long as the mediator is well trained in the process of mediation and has experience as a mediator. Determine how important subject matter knowledge is to you. Discuss this question with prospective mediators.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) training and credentials. Look at the types of training the practitioner has completed. The Voluntary Maryland Standards do not suggest specific levels of experience of training, except for those in court-connected or other forms of mandated dispute resolution.
- Education or professional experience background. In addition to training as a mediator, other qualifications may add another dimension to the dispute resolution process (i.e., backgrounds in dispute resolution as an attorney, social worker, or teacher; technical expertise as an engineer, small business owner, car mechanic, house inspector, non-profit manager, etc.).
- Experience with similar situations. Consider the type and complexity of your situation. This may be particularly relevant to businesses considering the use of mediation.
- A particular style/approach. There are several approaches that a mediator might use. Some are more passive, and let the parties guide the process. Others are more involved, and propose options. Learn more.
- Trust your instincts. Do you feel comfortable with the "neutral" person? Was the person willing to speak with you, answer your questions, and give you the information you requested? Do you feel the person will be impartial and fair? Are you satisfied the mediator has the skills and style you want? If not, look for someone else.
- References or reputation. You can ask for references from previous clients to see if the mediator has a reputation for competency, neutrality, and/or the ability to create an effective dispute resolution process. Mediation is confidential, so some mediators may not have clients who have agreed to be a reference.
- Fees. Most mediators charge a set fee per hour. Some only charge for the time they are actually mediating while others charge for preparation time and travel. Many will request payment for a certain number of hours of mediation before the mediation begins or full payment at the time of mediation. Ask about whether the fees are split by the parties.
You may also want to consider:
- Would a team approach work best? (Many mediators work with co-mediators.)
- Cultural differences (e.g., urban/rural, generational/cultural difference, or professional affiliations, etc.)
- Practical logistics (e.g., language, disability access, etc.)