July 21, 2009

Mediation Myths Debunked

In the wake recent articles describing mediation as one of the best jobs, Diane Levin refutes five urban legends about the profession:
  • 24 (or 30 or 40) hours of training is all you need to become a mediator -- No, it’s not. [...] Beyond that first mediation training, it takes additional education and advanced training, including supervision by experienced practitioners over the course of dozens of cases, to develop the capacity to mediate effectively.
  • Lawyers are already qualified to mediate by virtue of their profession and need little if any mediation training -- As a matter of fact, most people - and that includes lawyers - have little if any formal training in negotiation theory and skills, despite the fact that negotiating is something we all do daily. Moreover, the kind of negotiation that many lawyers are familiar with is traditional distributive, value-claiming bargaining and not the integrative, value-creating negotiation that mediation offers.
  • Lawyers always make the best mediators -- Exceptional mediators come from a wide range of occupations and backgrounds. [...] No one occupation serves as automatic guarantee of mediation talent.
  • Online training in mediation is a great way to get certified as a mediator -- Online training for mediators warrants a special caveat. I have said this before and it is worth repeating: online mediation training which purports to prepare students for face-to-face mediation is not worth your time and money.
  • I can make big money as a mediator-right after I finish my 30-hour training -- No, you can’t. Can you succeed in a career in mediation? Yes. But it takes hard work, effort, a sound business and marketing plan, a little luck, and a substantial investment in time.
(Mediation Channel.)

Fellow mediation blogger Tammy Lenski debunks one more:
  • I’m a certified mediator -- You are, are you? Are you sure? Says who? [...] The certificate does not mean you’re certified. It means you’re certificated.
(Making Mediation You Day Job.)

Related post: "Best Careers" Include Mediators.

As the field of Organizational Ombudsing matures into a profession, it will likely need to debunk the same myths. To wit:
  • Training alone is not be sufficient to become an Ombuds;
  • Lawyers [or any others] are not qualified simply by dint of their profession to be Ombuds;
  • Lawyers do not make the best Ombuds;
  • On-line training will not be the best way to become certificated as an Ombuds;
  • New Ombuds generally don't make big money; and
  • Certification is still a ways off.


  1. I would go so far as to say that, because lawyers are trained in adversarial processes, they have to overcome their "professional socialization" to become a decent mediator.

  2. Tom, thanks once again for linking to my post. I also appreciate learning about the urban legends that plague the Ombuds field. Sounds very familiar!

  3. Great article. I would offer that attorneys have some of the greatest challenges to overcome to be effective mediators, reinforcing what Keith said about their training in an adversarial process. I have also found that counselors and student conduct officers also have to "unlearn" some of their professional training in order to be an effective mediator.

    I have the experience of having trained mediators at many different colleges and universities, and having authored "Mastering Mediation," a curriculum for training students, faculty, and staff in problem solving mediation. As such, I also strongly concur with the notion that 24 to 30 hours of training is a great way to learn the process and to apply the necessary skills. But it takes much more training and live case experience to truly become a mediator.

    Thanks for posting this.