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What Is the Mediator?

Mediators offer an alternative to litigation to those clients who are unable to resolve their legal disputes between themselves. They try to make fighting parties reconcile before they go to court, providing to them more affordable and less drawn-out services. Filing cases in court is becoming less and less effective:  litigation is time-consuming and costly. The court system is also so overloaded that judges cannot get to know people trying to settle their differences. As a result, plaintiffs feel ignored, complaining that their narrative was not properly heard. Because litigations involve many stages, each of which requires payment, the cost of a litigating process often exceeds settlements that parties seek to receive. These deficiencies of a court system are remedied by mediators who offer an alternative approach to resolving controversies between people.

How Does Mediation Differ from Litigation?

Mediation is an alternative to litigation, helping people avoid taking legal actions against each other. Instead of presenting cases formally, as in trials, mediation fosters discussions of the dispute by the parties. In effect, it is the extension of negotiations between disputants, which takes over, where their own talks got stalled. Mediators give their clients a forum, where they can again voice their complaints and expectations of a settlement and, more importantly, to hear their opponents. Mediators help thier clients look objectively on each other's cases and, in presenting them with a more realistic outlook on desired settlements, they often lead negotiations between them out of a blind alley.

When clients prove particularly intransigent or when heated emotions prevent them from sitting down at a bargaining table, meditators listen to them separately in caucus sessions. In these private conversations, they let each party express their opinions and expectations, which they disclose to the other side only after both have been heard. These breakout sessions allow meditators to keep animosity between opponents in check and help them save their faces, when they finally make concessions.

What Does the Mediator Do?

Mediators bring disputes to resolutions in a manner different from methods used in a court room. They make an effort to see not filed complaints dryly summed up on paper but people, with their ambitions, wishes, hurt feelings, and monetary interests. Mediators carefully give heed to every client. In order to get to the gist of the matter in each case, they ask their clients hard questions, many of which they probably do not want to hear. Invited to ponder on difficult questions, the clients gain clarity about the results they are likely to achieve in arbitration or court. Unlike busy judges, mediators thoroughly study every complaint and find means to present important facts for both parties in a more favourable light. They emphasize points the client's clouded judgement disallowed them to see. If the clients need additional information, mediators brainstorm to understand how to obtain needed data.

Mediators also maintain neutrality. Unlike lawyers, they do not advise their clients to make certain decisions; unlike judges, they do not arbitrate. Unbiased, mediators lead their clients to draw appropriate conclusions from their conversation with each other; they help them make settlement proposal beneficial to both parties. Unlike disputes' resolutions in courts, where plaintiffs are deemed either right or wrong and where they either win or lose, mediators usually succeed in showing to their clients that the middle ground can be reached and that both sides can end their disputes in amicability and profit.

What Education Does the Mediator Need to Have?

To launch a successful career in mediation, you need a bachelor’s degree. Some universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in mediation and conflict resolution. These programs include courses in psychology, interpersonal communication, and negotiation strategies. Another route to become a mediator is to earn a certificate in mediation while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in another field. Yet it is fair to say that education requirements for mediators depend on the specificity of their job and work settings. Mediators may be attorneys; or they may simply hold a postgraduate certificate in dispute management, conflict resolution, or mediation. Master programs in business and psychology include courses in dispute resolution. If you also want to be an attorney, you must complete a three-year law school program in addition to a four-year bachelor’s degree.  

You can also obtain training in mediation after you have received your bachelor’s degree in any related discipline. There are plenty of state-sponsored programs, educational institutions, mediation associations, and commercial mediation centers that provide such training. Getting accepted to an internship program in some company specializing in mediation is useful as well, because it can provide you with valuable work experience. Internship can also lead you to employment in the same company, since many employers prefer hiring those applicants with whom they have already become well acquainted and whose professionalism they have already ascertained during their training.  

What Skills should the Mediator Possess?

To become a successful mediator, you need to possess the following skills:

  • Listening Skills – The ability to listen well is of paramount importance for mediators, since they need to understand arguments and complaints of both parties in order to bring them to the resolution of their conflict.
  • Clarifying Skills – These skills are essential for understanding the facts of the controversy between the parties.
  • Emotional Intelligence – This ability is crucial for understanding emotions of the quarreling parties that often warp their judgement and ability to find a solution to the disagreement.
  • Summarizing Skills – These skills are needed to understand the main points of the controversy and help the participants to look at the problem more critically.
  • Empathy – This quality is required to understand feelings of all participants and make them see the problem not only from their own point of view but through the eyes of their opponents.
  • Impartiality – It is highly crucial for the mediator to treat both parties in an unbiased manner. Without showing preferences for any participant in the disagreement, mediators should acknowledge opinions expressed by both parties and spend equal time on every problem involved in the controversy. The main goal of the mediator is to reach an outcome favorable to all participants. To achieve this goal, you need to help them propose solutions and compromises with which their opponents will agree.

How Much Do Mediators Earn?

Salaries of mediators depend on their work experience and the company in which they are employed. But on average, like arbitrators and conciliators, mediators make about US$55,800 a year. The lowest annual salary mediators receive is US$37,000. Their largest yearly income reaches US$ 66,800. 

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