5 points for choosing a mediator

Posted on March 01, 2017 by Jeremy Frost

As an accredited mediator, I am often asked what things you should look for when choosing who to work with to help you reach an agreement. Here are my 5 pointers.

1. Has experience of the topics in dispute

When choosing a mediator, I would suggest you look for someone who has experience and understanding of the topics in dispute.  For example, a family mediator is probably not the right person to mediate a multi jurisdictional commercial dispute and vice versa.  

An experienced mediator will know more about what the parties might have been through.  Real world, first-hand experience is essential, rather than just a theoretical and academic understanding of the matters at hand.

2. Is realistic about the case

A mediator is not there to judge the case for you, but they should be able to provide details of what the downside of your case is to the individual parties.  It is not unusual for those in dispute to be so focussed on winning as the only option, that they have not considered the possibility of not. Neither side is likely to appreciate it, but it’s better than choosing someone who promises the stars, when that approach is most likely to hinder reaching an agreement.

3. Views the whole issue and is pragmatic

The mediator should look at the whole issue, consider the ramifications on other matters and be pragmatic, rather than simply telling you want you want to hear.  

The mediator can be a little like a coach: they allow space for time for both parties to come to the deal, but unlike a lawyer, they’re not there to give opinions or protect the position of one party over the other.  

4. Creates trust

Mediation doesn’t involve personal relationships, but it is good to find someone that you feel you can trust within the confines of the mediation process.  

If you choose a mediator because you think they’ll put you first, it won’t work.  It shows that you’re not fully committing to the process, because the mediator is impartial and there for all the parties.  Just imagine how few disputes would end if both sides acted in this way?

5. Your mindset

Finally, be clear in your own mind that you’re there to come to an agreement to end the dispute, and accept that any deal that is agreed will involve a degree of compromise. Unless both parties have this mindset, an agreement will be harder to reach.