Tips for Becoming a Mediator in New York City
The following information is provided to assist those who are interested in becoming mediators, particularly in New York City. While much of the information is generic and applicable most anywhere, the tips offered here feature information that is specifically relevant to NYC.
But first, a caveat: Since the 1980s, the number of mediators has grown exponentially, far outstripping the demand for services. This has created a very challenging landscape for those who are interested in earning a living as a mediator. The chances of a new mediator making money in a private practice continue to be extremely low; the chances of actually earning a living as a mediator can be daunting even for highly trained mediators.
1. MEDIATOR EDUCATION
- Basic mediator training: There is widespread agreement in the ADR field that those interested in becoming mediators need extensive training. The length of basic mediator training is usually about 30 hours to start. Some contexts or areas of specialization require more; consult with appropriate professional organizations or providers for specific information.
- Community dispute resolution centers that receive funding from the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Court Improvement Programs (ADRCIP) provide a comprehensive training and apprenticeship program in accordance with minimum guidelines promulgated by the ADRCIP. Mediators who complete this training are certified to work in this program only; there is currently no general state certification in place to practice mediation in New York State.
- Training sessions in the NYC metropolitan area are announced on the NYC DR listserv.
- Increasingly, institutions of higher education offer a variety of degrees and certificates in conflict resolution. In the NYC area, a wide range of coursework is available at area colleges, universities and law schools.
- Some training programs are oriented around a particular approach to mediation, such as facilitative mediation, or specific context in which it is used such as divorce mediation or workplace mediation.
- In addition to skills training, one needs to become knowledgeable about mediator ethics and relevant legal provisions, such as the unauthorized practice of law.
- Experience for new mediators: As in any other professional field of practice, training is not enough to qualify one as a practitioner.
- Mentoring and apprenticeship are essential elements of developing mediator competency. Seek opportunities to co-mediate with experienced mediators.
- Mediating as a volunteer is a source of experience and skill development. Volunteer mediations also provide additional credentials to add to one’s resume. For information on volunteer mediation opportunities, see CUNY DRC’s List of Pro Bono and Compensated Mediation Opportunities in NYC.
- Ongoing learning: Mediators should participate in continuing education, which is available from a variety of providers.
- The Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators states that mediators should participate in continuing education. [Standard IV. Competence. A. 2.] Some rosters require that their members take continuing education.
- Participate in peer consultation groups to discuss cases with other mediators. Contact local professional organizations, programs, or practitioners for existing groups in your area of interest. If none exist, consider starting one to meet your needs.
- Subscribe to dispute resolution listservs. For national listservs, go to CRinfo. In NYC, the local listserv for dispute resolvers is NYC-DR hosted by the CUNY DRC. Follow Dispute Resolution blogs. Adrblogs.com is an international list of blogs organized by country and special interest.
2. Professional Resources
- Codes of conduct: Mediators have an obligation to follow ethical and other standards of practice. Mediators rely on the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators if other guidelines are not available. In NYS, ADRCIP created a Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee to respond to queries regarding mediator ethical concerns.
- Get involved locally: Attend mediation activities such as presentations, conferences, and the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast sponsored by Association for Conflict Resolution of Greater New York and the CUNY Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College on the first Thursday of each month from 8:00 -10:00 am at John Jay College. Announcements of local activities and training programs are posted on the NYC-DR listserv.
- Join ADR professional associations. Local dispute resolution organizations in NYC include: Association for Conflict Resolution of Greater New York, Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York, New York City Bar Association ADR Committee, New York County Lawyers Association Arbitration and ADR Committee. Additional organizations in NYS include: NYS Dispute Resolution Association, NYS Council on Divorce Mediation, NYS Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section, NYS Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. National organizations include the Association for Conflict Resolution, the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution, the Association for Family and Conciliation Courts, among others. International organizations include Mediators Beyond Borders.
- Become familiar with mediation programs and resources in NYC; information is available at the CUNY DRC’s website.
3. Private Mediation Practice Basics
- Reality check: As stated earlier in this document, the mediation field is overcrowded. Mediation consumers — both parties and attorneys – often use only mediators already known to them. Acceptance to mediation rosters requires extensive experience. If one does not have personal contacts and a track record, it will be very hard to get paid work, no matter how skilled one is and no matter how diligently one manages his/her marketing. Like any other field of practice, it is hard to develop a client base when one is starting out; in mediation it can be hard even when one has been around for a while. Hanging out a shingle in this – or any other – field does not guarantee that one can build a viable business.
- Mediation business practices: In addition to standard business practices, there are some that are particularly applicable to mediation.
- Develop standard forms, such as Confidentiality Agreements, which can stand up to legal scrutiny. Sample forms are often available online, e.g. see mediate.com, JAMS, among others.
- Establish a fee policy. Average fees in New York City are $300 per hour for private mediations, whether in family, workplace or commercial cases. Attorney mediators and mediators who are in greater demand may charge more. Federal and other mediation rosters generally pay $500-$800 per case or $100-$200 per hour. Mediators may charge for all time spent on a case or only for time spent in session. Travel and other out of pocket fees are generally paid by the parties.
- Obtain professional liability insurance, which is available through some professional organizations such as ACR, the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, and AFCC.
- Track your training and case history, as you may be asked for detailed records of mediator training, experience and case history (e.g., number and types of cases). Be mindful to protect the confidentiality of your clients in reporting on your case numbers.
4. Opportunities in the Field of Conflict Resolution
- Organizational rosters: Some organizations and programs have their own rosters. They rarely solicit new applications and they only accept highly experienced mediators. The rosters tend to be large, resulting in low caseloads for most of the mediators listed on the rosters. Examples of organizational rosters are the United States Postal Service, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Justice ADA mediation program that is administered by the KeyBridge Foundation.
- Mediation service providers: There are some firms that administer and provide services to organizational mediation users. Some of these firms are written into corporate ADR agreements as exclusive providers; other firms are awarded contracts on a periodic basis to be the exclusive provider for corporate or government entities. These firms are extremely selective and do not accept many new roster members. Without exception, they routinely require that applicants have many years of experience and many mediation cases under their belts. Check with the firms for specifics.
- Full time jobs in dispute resolution: Occasionally federal agencies, corporate entities and other organizations hire full time conflict resolution professionals, such as ombuds, in-house mediators and mediation administrators. However, highly experienced practitioners also fill these jobs. Federal agencies tend to hire current federal employees; universities and corporations tend to hire internally. Job postings for these and other employment opportunities are announced on the NYC-DR listserv and several websites including those maintained by NYSDRA, ACR, The Peace and Development Collaborative Network, among others.
- While there are limited opportunities in New York City for paid mediation work, a variety of organizations and workplace contexts are increasingly making conflict management skills a required competency of many positions.
- Become trained as a mediator and explore creative ways to use conflict resolution skills in your current job. Mediator training can enhance your skills in a variety of settings
- Mediator credentials may enhance your employment opportunities, as a conflict resolution background becomes increasingly valued in the workplace.
5. Online Resources
There are countless online resources for mediators readily available by doing an online search.
Two websites that are widely relied on are:
The following articles with tips on becoming a mediator are available online:
Building a Successful Mediation Practice, by James Melamud
So You Want to be a Mediator by James Melamud
Selected books on mediation as a career include:
Krivis, Jeffrey & Lucks, Naomi. How To Make Money as a Mediator (And Create Value for Everyone). Jossey-Bass, 2006.
Lenski, Tammy, Making Mediation Your Day Job: How to Market Your ADR Business Using Mediation Principles You Already Know. iUniverse, 2008.
Lovenheim, Peter. Becoming a Mediator: An Insider’s Guide to Exploring Careers in Mediation. Jossey Bass, 2002.
Lovenheim, Peter & Doskow, Emily. Becoming a Mediator: Your Guide to Career Opportunities. Delta Printing Solutions. 2004.
Mosten, Forrest S. Mediation Career Guide. Jossey-Bass, 2001.
Pynchon, Victoria & Kraynak, Joe. Success as a Mediator For Dummies John Wiley and Sons, 2012.
Please Note: The tips provided in this document are intended to serve as a guide for those interested in becoming mediators in New York City. They do not constitute a complete treatment of the topic, nor do they constitute legal advice. Users should fully research best practices to meet their own needs.
Updated October 2014 by the City University of New York Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, http://www.johnjayresearch.org/cdrc