2536 Columbine Circle
Lafayette, CO 80026
Robin N. Amadei, Director
phone: 303-604-1960
fax: 303-604-6278
Email: ramadei@aol.com
Common Ground Mediation and Coaching, LLC
Helping People Reach Common Ground



Common Ground Mediation and Coaching, LLC

So, you want to be a mediation entrepreneur?  Or, you feel like you have no choice but to become a mediation entrepreneur because there is a relative dearth of paid mediator positions.  It is possible to create a viable mediation practice, but it takes a lot of commitment, energy and patience to realize this goal.  The following road map is a suggested way that you might approach developing your mediation career.

1.  Become Familiar with the Mediator Guidelines

Carefully read the 'Guidelines for Mediator Education and Training' brochure that can be obtained from CCMO.  You should consider these guidelines to be minimum standards for mediators and should aspire towards meeting these qualifications.  While working towards meeting these standards, if you intend to do private mediations, you should establish a supervision/consultation relationship with a mediator that does meet these guidelines.

2.   Attend an Excellent Quality Training Program

To begin on the road towards becoming a mediator, one should attend a quality mediation training program that includes lecture, discussion and mediation role-playing.  Several good training programs are offered in Colorado.  CCMO has a resource guide that lists numerous training programs as well as internship opportunities.  I personally believe that, at minimum, a 40 hour training in either divorce and child custody mediation, another substantive area of mediation or a program on the general mediation process is necessary to be able to fully comprehend the mediation process.

3.  Practice those skills! 

The optimum way to practice mediation skills is to obtain an internship or volunteer mediation opportunity with an experienced mediator or mediation organization.  Typical internships enable the novice to observe and/or co-mediate actual cases.  Also, most internship and volunteer programs have in-service trainings to help the mediators within their programs to develop skills.  Again CCMO's resource guide lists internship opportunities which include community programs, victim/offender programs and private practice internships. 

Unfortunately, the demand for internships outstrips the supply of opportunities.  If you are having difficulty in obtaining an internship, there are still things that can be done to hone your mediation skills.  For example, every day one typically has opportunities to practice effective listening skills, reframing, and uncovering underlying interests.  Indeed. reframing opportunities are as close as your television.   

Or, one can form a mediation role-play group which can meet periodically to practice mediations.  And, several communities have mediation peer support groups which meet to discuss various mediation topics such as difficult mediation cases, marketing ideas and ethical issues.  For example, Boulder's peer support group has been meeting for three years and  provides a forum for experienced mediators and novices alike to network and share ideas.

CCMO offers skills-building workshops periodically to help members develop their mediation acumen.  The Spring Meeting in May will offer program segments geared towards all experience levels.  CCMO-Boulder will be hosting a skills-building workshop at the end of April and the Membership Committee will be offering other workshops for members periodically in 1995.  Private organizations also offer skills-building workshops.

4.  Determine a Focus For Your Mediation Practice.

It is always best to focus your mediation practice in areas with which you are already familiar.  If you are a real estate agent, real estate mediation would be an obvious place to begin.  A teacher could look towards beginning a practice in school mediation.  If you are fairly new to the field of mediation and decide to go ahead and establish a practice without having been an intern or community mediator, even if you have a strong substantive base in a particular area, you should establish a supervision or consultation relationship with an experienced mediator.  That way, you can ask questions and debrief cases with someone that can help you develop your skills and become more effective in the mediation process.

Whatever you do, unless you have an independent income, DON'T QUIT THE DAY JOB!

5.  Join Professional Organizations. 

If you are not a member of CCMO yet, JOIN.  It is a wonderful way to network with other mediators at all experience levels.  Become an active member in CCMO by joining and working on committees.  The more you put in, the more you will receive in ideas, friendships and valuable professional contacts.

You may also want to join a national mediation organization such as the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR) or the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM).

Also, become active in your substantive professional organizations.  Lawyers should actively participate in bar association activities. Human resources consultants should participate actively in those professional groups.  This is an excellent way to make contacts and receive mediation referrals.

6.  Continue Your Mediation Education.

Your first mediation training program is only the beginning.  Mediators should continually upgrade their skills by attending workshops and trainings both in mediation and in  substantive areas of practice.  As stated above, CCMO offers programs and trainings several times per year in mediation.  Other professional associations, such as the Colorado and local bar associations for example, offer continuing education for their members.  Also, there are excellent books on the market in mediation that are worth reading.  For example, I especially recommend Chris Moore's book, "The Mediation Process" and Gary Freidman's book, "A Guide to Divorce Mediation".

7.  Logistics of Starting a Practice.

If you can, integrate your mediation practice into your current office arrangement.  Given the fact that it typically takes a while to get a mediation practice up and running, it is advisable not to incur too much additional overhead expense.  It is fairly easy to integrate a mediation practice into a legal or psychology practice, for example.  To keep my costs low, I have a home office where I do my office work and some mediations.  When appropriate, I have an arrangement whereby I can rent a conference room on an as-needed basis.

If you integrate mediation into an already existing professional practice, it is important to create a separate identity for mediation.  You may want to consider a separate telephone line, company name, checking account etc. to delineate the mediation practice.  Also, when dealing with a potential client for the first time, it is important to make your role crystal clear with such client.  If you are acting as a lawyer or therapist for a client, for example, you can not be that client's mediator.   Also, it is important to ferret out any potential conflicts of interest early on.  If, for example, your law partner represents Client A as a lawyer, you should not then be a mediator in a case involving Client A and another party. 

Create procedures and forms that will make your work more efficient. Procedurally, you may want to develop policies that will apply to your practice such as fee scales, when fees are due, how you will deal with potential parties when they contact you, etc.  Also, develop a form Agreement to Mediate, Confidentiality Waiver forms, and Intake Forms at minimum.  Other forms may be developed as you go along.  Also, it is likely that you will develop some stock Memoranda of Understanding that will serve as your guide for drafting agreements for your mediation clients. 

Determine if you want to obtain professional liability insurance and do so if appropriate.  Such insurance can be obtained through the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR) or the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM).  You need to join a given professional organization to be entitled to obtain the insurance.

8.  Marketing a Mediation Practice

I used to cringe when I thought of myself as having to 'market' anything.  Now that I have become a 'mediation entrepreneur', however, I spend most of my time, or so it seems, marketing.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and I have had to invent lots of ways to get my name out there.  We are at the beginning of the mediation 'product life cycle', and therefore at the educational phase of the field's development.  It is necessary to focus a disproportionate amount of time (and money) on one to one contacts and the development of articles and other public educational materials.  I am listed in the yellow pages, all the available lists and directories, etc.  My cases for the most part, however, come from personal contacts and referrals.  Therefore, I recommend putting your name in ads and directories as a support to your efforts to develop one to one contacts. 

It is critical to your success to be 'out there'.  Get involved in professional organizations, and make yourself available as a speaker on the subject of mediation.  Write articles for journals and professional newsletters and become a local 'expert' on mediation.  Make media contacts and let them know that you are available as a source of mediation information. 

There is strength  in numbers,  Therefore, join the CCMO PR committee and develop PR skills and exposure through your professional mediation organization.  Or, you may want to join together with other mediators in your community to conduct joint PR projects and to create a referral system.

The best thing that you can do in the way of PR or marketing is to be excellent at what you do.  Referrals are critical in this business.  When you do a good job, people talk and you develop a good reputation.  Through this reputation, mediation cases will flow your way.

9.  Attitudes for Success (The sermon section)

As you may have guessed, mediation is not the field to get into if you want to get rich quick!  It is important to enter this field out of a strong sense of commitment and with a great deal of self confidence and patience.  Be prepared to do a lot of pro bono work up front for personal satisfaction and long-term rewards (many of which are not financial).  Whether or not you end up staying in the field of mediation in the long term, you will be that much richer in your own personal life because of the experience.  Through mediating others' disputes, one becomes more effective at dealing with one's own personal conflicts.  Also, you will be serving society in a rare and important way through your efforts.  GO FOR IT!  


Prepared by Robin N. Amadei, Common Ground Mediation and Coaching, LLC, 303-530-5476.  All rights reserved.

Helping People Reach Common Ground