Questions & Answers

What is the difference between a mediator and a mediation advocate?

Asked by Vicky on 9 Dec 2014, Greece

<p>What is the legal status of a mediator and that of a mediation advocate? Are they identical?</p>

1 answer


  • Jeremy Lack

    Locations: Switzerland, United States - NY, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Singapore

    Languages: English, French, Hebrew, Spanish


    Answers to date: 1

    <p>A &ldquo;mediator&rdquo; is a neutral third party, usually appointed by all the parties, who helps the parties to resolve their dispute. He or she is expected to be neutral, impartial and independent, and to treat all of the parties as equal clients.
    A &ldquo;mediation advocate&rdquo; is a person who has been hired by one of the parties to assist that party as a member of its negotiation team or as a party representative in the course of a mediation. (Typical examples of mediation advocates would be lawyers, professional negotiators, advisors, consultants, etc.). The mediation advocate normally has only one client in the mediation (the party who hired him or her). The key difference, therefore, is that the mediation advocate is partial and arguably not independent of the person who hired him or her, and is not neutral.
    The use of the word "advocate" has created some confusion. A "mediation advocate" is not a person who advocates in favour of mediation or promotes it generally. (Many mediators actively and passionately promote the use of mediation, but are not party representatives in mediation.) It describes a person who has professional training, skills and experience specifically aimed at representing a client in a mediation and maximizing their chances of achieving a successful outcome. The term mediation "advocate" is often reserved for lawyers who have been trained to represent clients in mediations, whereas the term mediation "advisor" is usually used for non-lawyers who are similarly experienced in assisting their clients in mediated negotiations.
    IMI had a long consultation process before deciding on the nomenclature of "mediation advocate" (usually but not necessarily reserved for lawyers) and "mediation advisor" (which is the same title, but usually used to describe non-lawyers). The term &ldquo;advocate&rdquo; or &ldquo;advisor&rdquo; is used for consultants or experts who are not acting as mediators themselves. The distinction between "advocate" and "advisor" was felt to be necessary by IMI, because in some countries the word "advocate" is synonymous with "lawyer", and there was concern that there may be confusion in such countries if non-lawyers would also start calling themselves "advocates" and be misunderstood to be providing legal advice and services. Although the term "advisor" could have been used more generically for all party professional advisors in mediations, many bar associations and lawyers felt that the term "mediation advocate" should be kept to distinguish lawyers who have been trained and certified as being specialized in representing parties in mediations from non-lawyers who have been similarly trained (and would be called "mediation advisors" in these countries). For more explanations on this nuance, please see the IMI's criteria page at, and in particular section 3 entitled "Nomenclature - Mediation Advocate/Mediation Advisor".
    As to what the "legal status" is for a "mediator", this varies greatly country-by-country, where different responsibilities, standards and obligations will apply depending on national laws, regulations and professional obligations. (For a recent publication comparing the roles of mediators in 60 different jurisdictions, see Schonewille &amp; Schonewille "The Variegated Landscape of Mediation" Eleven international publishing (2014) available via
    Likewise, the legal status of a "mediation advocate" will vary country-by-country, depending on whether the nomenclature "advocate" in that country is reserved to lawyers only. If so, the "mediation advocate" will normally have additional legal, ethical and/or professional obligations (such as professional secrecy or attorney/client privilege) that add themselves to his/her obligations as a mediation advisor to that client. &ldquo;Mediation advisors&rdquo; who are non-lawyers (e.g., accountants, coaches, therapists, psychologists, etc.) may also be bound by additional legal, ethical and/or professional obligations that are linked to their source profession. These additional obligations may be statutory or based on professional codes of conduct that will typically vary profession-by-profession, country-by-country and region-by-region. Even within the same state or country, the standards of "mediation advocacy" may vary (for example in countries making a distinction between barristers and solicitors, which may have different impacts on their legal status when acting as mediators or as &ldquo;&rdquo;mediation advocates&rdquo;).
    In order to bridge these confusing national and professional differences, IMI has set out one set of competency criteria for both lawyers and non-lawyers wishing to advise clients in setting up and participating in mediations. These criteria involve the same general requirements (e.g. transparency and integrity), and substantive criteria (e.g., experience, knowledge and practical skills). These persons can be certified as &ldquo;mediation advocates&rdquo; or &ldquo;mediation advisors&rdquo; by local qualifying accreditation programs (QAPs). Once accredited, these IMI mediation advocates/advisors are held accountable to the same standards (e.g., the use of feedback forms and feedback digests) as are IMI Certified Mediators, and a party who believes any mediation advocate/advisor has breached his/her professional obligations can activate a disciplinary process against that advocate/advisor. Complaints against IMI mediation advocates who are lawyers can also be brought before their respective bar associations, and the same is true for all other mediation advisors who are supervised by professional bodies that regulate their conduct by virtue of their professional obligations and code of conduct.</p>

  • Mr. Jeremy Lack

    +41 79 247 1519
    +41 79 247 1519
    +41 22 789 7901
    23 Ave. de Beau-Sejour
    CH-1206 Geneva

    Mediation languages:

    English, French, Hebrew, Spanish

    Mediation locations:

    Switzerland, United States - NY, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Singapore

    Experience Qualification Path:

    Category 2: SKWM-CSMC

    Current position and background:

    - Independent ADR Neutral & Attorney-at-Law with LAWTECH (CH)
    - Door Tenant with QUADRANT CHAMBERS (UK)
    - Part-time faculty to the EPFL (CH) (Management of Technology MBA Program)

    Jeremy Lack is an independent ADR...

    Main mediation practice areas:

    Jeremy has a broad commercial ADR practice and works in several fields. His areas of specialism are cross-cultural or international civil and commercial disputes and deal mediations, typically where there are complex business, technological, personally sensitive or intellectual property issues involved. He has worked extensively with large corporations, start-up companies, NGOs, IGOs...

    Mediation experience:

    Examples of recent international mediations:

    • Ad-Hoc Mediation: Workplace-related dispute involving a well-known international not-for-profit organization and many members of its internal management and governance systems. Through a series of meetings over several months, designed by the participants, the process resulted in better communications and the implementation of outcomes that would...

    Description of mediation style:

    Jeremy uses a Guided Choice approach to mediation and an outcome-focused and holistic style that is adapted to cross-cultural disputes. He seeks to ensure that the parties have a common understanding of the mediation process (which can vary significantly country-by-country), and to tailor it to take into account each party’s perceived procedural needs and their future business interests. He...

    Feedback digest:

    This Feedback Digest is based on 15 feedback reports received from parties and lawyers in over 100 mediations conducted by Jeremy Lack from 2007 - 2014. (A 10% response rate is normal for surveys of this kind.)

    These mediations were conducted in many countries, including in Europe, the USA, and the Middle East with parties coming from all 5 continents. Most were highly complex commercial matters involving significant issues, commercial interests and large sums of money. They also tended to involve international or cross-border disputes. In a majority of matters, legal action or arbitration proceedings had already commenced, and in others, parties had unsuccessfully attempted other avenues of settlement. Some of these cases involved complex intellectual property or technology issues, although his cases seem to reflect a very broad range of disputes, including family and non-governmental organisations as well as start-up companies, partnerships, and industrial multinationals.

    Jeremy Lack has received some remarkable feedback. Parties comment on his calm and constructive approach, in one instance despite a grueling twenty-hour marathon mediation; on his management of process, and his capacity to make it known to the parties that the process of mediation really matters; and on the high level of skill and commitment he brings to complex international business disputes.

    All would recommend him to others. They all rated his skill and ability highly (4) or extremely highly (5) and commented on his capacity to evaluate a dispute realistically, help parties understand one another’s arguments, bridge substantial differences, and propose new avenues of settlement. Likewise when asked if they would use him again or would recommend him to others, all parties were unanimous in their willingness to do so. In addition, parties described themselves as very satisfied, even where the dispute was partly settled, another indication of their satisfaction with process, and the sense, expressed by one respondent, that this was the "discovery of a new process" in which "human interaction was great."

    Praise for this mediator extends from his content skills in business and IP law to his patience and excellent listening: "Ce mediateur fait montre d'une grande patience et d'une excellente ecoute." Another respondent, who considers himself "perfectly bilingual" saw Jeremy Lack as "more than fluent: his translation was perfect in the smallest details, and he was able to reconcile two opposite visions of business between the French ... and the American...approach." Another comments that his skill in the midst of a patent infringement law suit with a "seemingly impossible divide at the outset" at "bridging cultural and language differences (was) unsurpassed."

    Again and again, parties point to his valuable input in "balancing the disparate interests and cultural and language divides", and, in a tense situation, to his ability to create trust among parties and between parties and himself both for his technical skills and his abilities as a mediator. In a 2014 feedback report, the lawyer to one of the parties stated: "[Jeremy Lack is] particularly capable at turning positional confrontational statements into conciliatory offers, and leading constructive all-party discussions, so we could see for ourselves where the problems were."

    The marriage of experience in business and the law, strong process management skills and cross-cultural competence is at the heart of Jeremy Lack's effectiveness as a mediator where parties from very different backgrounds find themselves in complex cross-border legal disputes.

    Respondents also commented that Jeremy was able to reinstate respect between parties and show empathy, yet was able to liberate the parties from the ‘emotional baggage’ which had prevented them from negotiating in the past.

    This is the most telling aspect of Jeremy’s feedback: that his highly developed ability to deal with the tension and strong feelings associated with high-stakes international commercial disputes is placed in the service of mediation and settlement. As one party commented, even if the mediation had not settled, the atmosphere created during the mediation would undoubtedly have led to settlement at a later date because barriers to communication and understanding had been significantly lowered.

    This feedback also reveals interesting correlations between the resolution of most issues, overall satisfaction with the process and satisfaction with the costs of the mediation. It clearly indicates that where parties reach agreement on key issues, they are neutral or satisfied with the costs of mediating and have a high level of overall satisfaction.

    Jeremy Lack’s skills as a mediator not only enable parties in entrenched dispute to break through and resolve, but to do so in a manner which enhances their respect for the process and their readiness to recommend mediation - and Jeremy Lack - to others.

    Feedback digest 2014-15

    This latest feedback reflects the growing complexity of matters mediated by Jeremy Lack, and also his established reputation as a mediator in matters parties regarded as intractable.

    It is also instructive to note that not one of the mediations for which feedback was received was conducted under the auspices of a provider organisation, and that users and parties chose Jeremy as mediator on the basis of his reputation, prior working relationships or recommendation by other professionals.

    This is a strong indicator of an emerging picture of user preference, and tallies with their stated intention to use him in future and to recommend him to others.

    Half the parties who commented stated they were prepared to appear as a reference on Jeremy’s IMI profile; a third said this was their first experience of mediation, yet all were equally clear on the value Jeremy added to the resolution of their disputes.

    Rated no less than highly or very highly for his skill and ability, parties praised his ability to “show everybody where their best interests were” and commented favourably on his “listening and empathy and his capacity to build trust and find consensus”. Other comments described the skilled way he is able to “unveil actual interests”, “bring about rational discussion” and “help quantify potential profit and loss for each party”.

    There is a further link to parties’ satisfaction with both process and outcome, and the fact that most issues were settled at mediation: it is that they described themselves as either very satisfied or neutral to the cost of the process. Their involvement in reaching settlement and their appreciation of the breaking of deadlocks is obviously well worth the costs involved.

    In summary, parties added comments that illustrate precisely what it is that users are looking for in a satisfactory mediation:

    “De-escalation of the dispute.”

    “Mediation…has been key to achieve an agreement …in a relatively short time, with an adequate outcome for both sides.”

    “Efficiency of process and exchanges in comparison to litigation...”

    Taken as a whole, the high praise for Jeremy’s performance as a mediator underlines both his high level skills and abilities as well as what parties are searching for in mediation. Once they find it and experience its results, they will seek it out again – and they will tell others about it.

    Joanna Kalowski
    Sydney, Australia





© The IMI logo is an internationally registered trademark of the International Mediation Institute Stichting.

Web design by Tribal Systems