Keys to Negotiation 4-Thinking about a Mediator


Berton Lee Lamb

It seems surprising now, but there was a time when mediation wasn’t as common as it is today. There have always been mediators, of course.  It is just that for a variety of reasons mediation has become more commonplace.  One of the reasons is an attempt to reduce the cost of litigation.  Another is the growing recognition that mediated dispute resolution can produce better results for everyone.

Participants in our training courses often ask for advice on choosing a mediator.  Here are some lessons you might want to keep in mind:

  • Reputation: Ask colleagues if they have used a particular mediator.  What was their experience?
  • Subject Area Knowledge: No one can be an expert in everything.  Mediators are no exception.  It is helpful to select a mediator who knows something about the subject under discussion or has worked in similar fields.
  • Amiability:  It is important to choose a mediator with whom you get along.  This is complicated because the mediator is going to serve all parties in a dispute.  All the parties should have input after getting to know a potential mediator.
  • Impartiality: Mediators are supposed to be impartial, but all the parties should have a good sense of the unbiased orientation of a potential mediator.
  • Compensation: In the best situations all parties contribute toward the mediator’s compensation.  At the very minimum a potential mediator should help the parties discuss payment and contributions from everyone.
  • Services: Mediators provide a variety of services and services are rendered at different levels.  The parties should discuss beforehand what they want from a mediator and a potential mediator should help the parties sort out what is needed and wanted.

Selecting a mediator requires planning and consultation with all the parties.  Oftentimes, it is possible to sense that all the parties are ready for outside help.  Nevertheless, it is good negotiation practice, when you feel that an independent third party–such as a mediator–could help, to check with the other parties about their assessment of the situation.  If everyone thinks a it is the right time to bring in a third party choosing the right mediator can increase the chances for success.


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