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How to select a mediator by Barry L. Kohler, posted on July 26, 2016

July 26, 2016 12:55 PM | Anonymous

So you think mediation might help you resolve an issue causing stress in your life?  These suggestions will help you come up with a short list – two or three mediators who would be acceptable to you – who might be right for your case:

Ask around. Friends or family members might have worked with a mediator in the past and may be able to suggest someone (or someone to avoid!). Even if they worked with the mediator in a court mediation, many court mediators also offer private (not court-provided) mediation services.  Since mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and often used to avoid litigation, most lawyers are familiar with mediation and may be able to recommend mediators who might be able to address your dispute.

Stay right here on the Maine Association of Mediators (MAM) website. Use the “Find a Practitioner” tab at the top of our home page.  You can search by location or  by practice area to get a list of practitioners offering mediation services. Mini bios, contact info, and links to practitioner websites will help you to narrow your search.

Decide on the mediator qualifications that are important to you. Many mediators are lawyers or are legally trained. Some have backgrounds in social services, education, the ministry, or other fields.  Others have specific knowledge of an industry, profession, or other substantive topic. Many mediators have the skills to be helpful to parties with a wide range of disputes; others have specific knowledge of an industry, profession, or practice area (like divorce and family matters, real estate, construction matters, or business).  You can peruse the MAM mediator list for mediators with the specific expertise you want.

Ask questions. We recommend that you interview two or three mediators on the phone or via email to determine which one is right for you.  Beyond being in the right area of focus, the mediator you choose should feel right to you, meaning that you should feel comfortable with their style and confident in their capabilities.

Here’s what you’ll want to ask:

♦  How does the mediator charge (flat rate or hourly)? If hourly, what is the rate and does it apply only to face-to-face sessions or also to preparation (reviewing documents, etc.) or writing up any agreement reached in session?

♦  How is travel by the mediator charged: by the mile, at the hourly rate, no charge if local, etc.?

♦  What is the mediator’s education and professional background?

♦  How long has the person been a mediator and what types of disputes does s/he typically work with?

♦  Does the mediator have any conflicts or potential conflicts of interest with . . .[names of parties or businesses, subject matter of dispute, etc.]?

♦  How many mediation sessions might it take to resolve your particular issue(s)?

♦  What style or model of mediation does the practitioner follow and what does that mean for you in terms of how the mediation process will go?

Get the other party on board. Because mediation involves at least two parties, all parties must agree on the mediator. With that in mind, you’ll need   to give your top two or three choices to the other party for their consideration. It might be helpful for you to explain how you arrived at your top choices. You will also want to invite the other party to suggest additional candidates for your review.

If you go into the mediator selection process with the goal of finding a mediator who truly resonates with you and your opponent, you are more likely     to arrive at an outcome through mediation that satisfies you both.  Thankfully there are many talented mediators out there. We wish you (and the other party) the very best with whoever you select.

Good luck!

About the blogger:

Barry L. Kohler is a mediator who is an attorney, a Certified Financial Planner, and has served as the director of a bank trust department. His current mediation practice is primarily related to family matters and matters involving families and money, but he selectively accepts other types of cases. He serves on the Maine Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Services (CADRES) roster, is a FINRA-qualified arbitrator, and has served on a Maine Medical Malpractice Screening Panel. Barry has a B.A. degree in Philosophy from University of Pennsylvania, and a law degree from Cornell Law School. He mediates regularly in Portland, Lewiston, Bath-Brunswick, and various York County towns.


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