Expanding the Mediation Pie

NYSBA New York Dispute Resolution Lawyer | Fall 2009 | Vol.2 | No. 2 |  Pp 52/54

Editor’s Note: As the NYSBA Dispute Resolution Section embarks this year on a study of mediator credentialing, we thought IMI’s recently-launched web-based open access platform for credentialing international mediators would be of interest.

International Mediator Certification and Expanding the Mediation Pie[1]

By Michael Leathes, Director, International Mediation Institute

Over the years there has been a great deal of discussion about the pros and cons of mediator credentialing, a discussion which continues in various venues to date. However, there is a growing sense among many in the field that credentialing is critical if the field is to grow.  To foster the growth of mediation the International Mediation Institute (IMI) was set up as a foundation in 2007.[2]IMI does not compete in the marketplace, is funded by donations, and its initial role is to credential quality mediators worldwide, enabling them to be easily identified through its search engine.  IMI launched its web based certified mediator data base, open to those seeking mediators without charge, in June of 2009. IMI’s wider mission is to promote and encourage the field and help the mediation pie to expand on a global basis for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Why do we need mediator credentialing?

Companies and professional firms, often do not fully appreciate the value mediation can deliver to them. It has been estimated that the total billings of all U.S. mediators in a single year approximates $500 million – roughly the same level of billings as the 50th largest US law firm.  Mediation is a small pie even in the country where its progress has been greatest. In my career as an in-house counsel, I have proposed mediation to many opponents. Most were rejected.  I estimate that only 1 in 50-100 proposals was accepted. The counter-parties just did not understand what was involved.  Mediators see the tail of cases that come to them; they rarely see or hear of those that don’t.

Mediators need to adopt and support the credentialing process and focus on the enlargement of the overall pie – mediation as a practice – and not merely on their own slice sugared by vested networks.  Although they compete head-to-head for business with the next mediator, if they fail to collaborate in the task of authenticating and validating the mediation field as a whole, their piece of the cake will not enlarge.

Qualifications are essential in the mediation field to foster the growth of the field. People can practice as a mediator almost everywhere without having been trained, possessing a licence, having to improve their skills or being independently tested or vetted, without being regulated and without the impetus to improve their own delivery.  A