The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter June 2009

Effectiveness of the Mediator
by James Rainwater

A good mediator can distill the myriad of issues swirling about a case and present some clarifying alternatives that may enlighten both parties. Almost like a symphony conductor, an experienced mediator can elicit agreement out of chaos. What makes a good mediator?

Of course, mediation experience is vital. Yet, at the same time, life experience can be equally important - experience gained from various positions, endeavors, and accomplishments. I've always found that a solid understanding of business and human behavior can be applied to any mediation scenario. Ultimately, the majority of cases do revolve around the issues of time or money - and sometimes both. How much time will a parent be allowed for visitation, or how much money will be compensated to the other party?

Patience, insight, and leadership are also qualities of a good mediator. I've heard that some attorneys like to be told what to do by the mediator. That has not been my experience - advice, yes, but not arm-twisting control. The mediator should know when to be assertive and when to let the process work on its own. It is often a fine line, and a seasoned mediator knows how to walk it.

As a mediator, I want to urge the process forward but not at the expense of trampling the parties' concerns. As with any able conductor, I want to take the time for the whole score to be played. Writing the agreement should then be a simple matter of putting words to paper because the meeting of minds has already occurred. The effective mediator is able to navigate the parties to that mutuality in a less circuitous way, while offering constant clarification and doses of reality. Perhaps, that is why I enjoy conducting mediations.

Rainwater Law