YourABA May 2012 Masthead

Tips on how to jump-start a mediation career

In a recent GP Solo Magazine article, “12 Tips for Launching a Mediation Practice,” James E. McGuire fields a question every mediator receives—How can I become one, too? McGuire, a dispute resolution professional since 1989, has served as a special master and neutral evaluator.

Among his 12 tips are these five gems:

Write your mediator bio. “Use websites for mediation service providers and read 20 to 30 different mediators’ bios from three or more websites,” suggests McGuire. “Pick the best examples and create your template.” A bio is useful as a start to marketing efforts, and developing such a document can help identify training and experience gaps to address.

Even if you haven’t mediated a case, “the combination of your subject-matter expertise and solid mediation training may be enough to obtain your first engagements as a mediator,” McGuire says, emphasizing that basic training is imperative, even for someone with 25 years of experience at the bar.

Start reading.  In addition to ensuring you have basic mediation training under your belt, get conversant with the relevant literature. In addition to Getting to Yes, read Getting Past No – “That’s the book you read to know what to do when the other side hasn’t read Getting to Yes.”
Get connected. Become a member of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution and maybe even the Association for Conflict Resolution, as well as dispute resolution groups at the state and local level. These groups are not only ripe for networking, but many also offer matching services to find a mentor.

Volunteer to mediate. “The fastest way to have mediation experience is to volunteer to mediate,” advises McGuire. Court-connected mediation programs regularly use volunteers for small claims and lower-level trial court cases. Also, if you are a member of a law firm with an ADP program, join it. If your firm does not have one, start the program yourself.

Educate others. Look for speaking opportunities. “There is a logical link between the practice you are trying to build and the places where you want to speak,” says McGuire. Seek out practice gatekeepers and others in probable need of mediation services to educate them on mediation and provide practical tips and advice. “People who first heard about mediation or thought about using it because of something you said or wrote are more likely to contact you.”

Market yourself—write something! Keep track of the people who have benefitted from your mediation, as noting the satisfaction of old contacts is key to an effective marketing campaign. In addition, write articles on related topics that you feel advance the practice of mediation. If someone remembers something you wrote, he or she will be more likely to contact you.

With no prescribed path to enter the profession, these basic tips can put any aspiring mediator on the right track.

The GP Solo Magazine article, “12 Tips for Launching a Mediation Practice,” is an edited version of the full article that appeared in the Winter 2011 edition of Dispute Resolution.

GP Solo Magazine is a publication of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

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