The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter February 2011

A Mediator of All Trades
by James Rainwater

When non-attorneys ask about mediation, I explain to them all about the benefits, the procedures, and the real world application of it. A commonly asked question is: What qualities make for a good mediator? My response is: Patience, patience, patience. Well, perhaps, that is not too far off the mark. I believe those common traits that solid mediators have are sometimes ethereal.

My belief is that good mediation is conducted by someone with a broad expanse of experience - life and professional, education, and leadership qualities. The mediator who is comfortable "hitting the ground running," regardless of the subject matter, is probably the one most likely to facilitate a settlement.

I am reminded of the Justice of the Peace Court mediations that had conducted for the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center a few years ago, as part of a pilot program. These cases, of course, were of a small claims nature, but the subject matter and issues could be exciting and compelling. Often, the parties were pro se and quite contentious. Having the faith of the judge was a boost to getting the parties' attention. Getting the parties to settle was another matter altogether.

These J.P. Court mediations actually reduced all the mediation theories and practices down to their most rudimentary essences. The feeling was almost that of parachuting into some new and strange place. With no pre-conference documents, position papers, or the like, the mediation conference was initiated quickly and efficiently. The aforementioned skills paid off, and most parties left with a settlement agreement in hand.

What qualities should attorneys seek in choosing a mediator? A strong mixture of experience, education, and leadership is a good starting point. Having confidence in the mediator is a top priority. Having a mediator with confidence is paramount. And the last requisite skill set? Patience, patience, patience.

Rainwater Law