First of all, contrary to a popular belief – not all mediators are the same. Even though the role of a mediator is limited to facilitating negotiations in a legal dispute and they don’t make any decisions or ruling in a case, having the right mediator can make a big difference between settling a dispute or bringing it close to settlement v not getting anywhere at all. There is more than one type of effective mediator, and like all people – different mediators bring their own unique style of pursuing resolution. However, there are at least two fundamental qualities you should be looking for in a mediator when you are looking for one for your case:
- Knowledge of the applicable law and practical experience pursuing or defending similar cases. Yes, it’s true that both parties submit their mediation briefs to the mediator outlining their position, supporting facts and the applicable law, but it surely helps having the type of mediator who dives deep into facts and into evidence with confidence because he or she knows the applicable law and can be persuasive with both sides by pointing out specific legal strengths and weaknesses in the parties’ respective positions and not just say “oh… you know… judges and jurors are unpredictable, trial is expensive… and you better just settle, because it’s the best option” or something like that. Many mediators list their experience as a judge in their biography. While any such experience is impressive, it doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good mediator, so don’t rely on that type of experience to much when choosing a mediator.
- Your mediator should have the right personality – When parties make a decision to settle their case at the mediation, they want to understand why their decision is the right thing to do under the circumstances, and why what they are getting is a fair deal, even if it is not perfect. You want your mediator to have the right personality and the right presence. Knowing the law and having courtroom experience is great, but if it can’t be translated into effectively listening to both sides’ concerns and goals and being as patient as necessary, then that impressive experience of that mediator isn’t going to be of much value.