Mediators use their knowledge of the law to help facilitate alternative dispute resolution. They conduct meetings and hearings outside of the courtroom, helping parties to settle disputes through mutual agreement. Mediators serve as neutral agents and may provide recommendations for settlement, but the parties involved actually negotiate the settlement.
Many mediators are volunteers who may be employed by local or State courts, law firms, labor organizations or insurance companies. They typically charge minimal fees, the cost of which is usually shared by both parties.
While many mediators hold a law degree, some may opt to pursue a certificate in conflict resolution or a master’s degree in dispute resolution, conflict management or public policy. In addition, mediators practicing in programs funded by the State or court are usually required to complete a training program.
While all states do not require licensure, some do have mandatory certification programs. Mediators can also join professional associations that may offer additional training. For instance, members of the American Arbitration Association are required to complete a credentialing program that combines experience with a written examination.
Mediators preside over various legal disputes, acting as a neutral party and assisting the parties involved to reach a settlement out of court. Mediation cases can involve anything from workplace disputes to divorce proceedings. In some instances, mediators may facilitate executive mini-trials, early neutral evaluations or summary jury trials, in which the outcome is non-binding unless both parties decide otherwise.
Mediators should be prepared to perform the following duties:
Although mediators work fairly regular hours, they may work overtime when negotiating contracts. Most of their work is performed indoors, and they often have to commute to meeting rooms or offices.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field should experience more growth by 2018 than the average for other professions. As alternative dispute resolution becomes more common and is more accessible, legal parties will choose mediation to avoid paying higher fees and the lengthy trials associated with court proceedings.
A May 2008 government report cites the average salary for a mediator as just over $50,500. However, many mediators have other full- or part-time employment to supplement their mediation income.