Have you ever wondered how that mediator you’ve chosen made mediation his or her profession? Below, you will learn the steps to becoming a certified mediator and some practical considerations for becoming a professional mediator.
There are several types of certified mediators in Florida – county, family, circuit and dependency. Certification in each area is based on a point system, with points earned for your educational background, experience in the field and mentorship.
Step 1: Mediation Training Course. For all certification areas, the first step is attending a mediation training course. This is required. Each training course is specific to the certification area you choose and is somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. The courses, currently given in person and via Zoom, require a fair amount of participation in mediation role play and discuss of mediator ethics. Once the course is complete, participants are provided an application for certification.
Step 2: Mentorship Requirements. The next step toward becoming a certified mediator is fulfilling the mentorship requirements. Mentorship requires observing a certain number of mediations (which varies depending on certification area) with at least two different certified mediators. It can also include conducting mediations under the supervision of a certified mediator. The onus is upon the applicant to identify mediators who will allow observations, though ethically all certified mediators are required to accommodate two observations per year upon request.
Step 3: Complete Certification Application. Once the education and mentorship requirements are met, the applicant has two years to complete the application for certification. This requires a criminal background check, an application fee ($20.00) and a certification fee (amount ranges from $40.00 to $150.00, depending on the area of certification). Each certification is valid for two years, after which the mediator can renew, subject to completing 16 continuing mediator education credits and paying a renewal fee.
Mediator as a Profession
Many people obtain mediator certifications but not everyone chooses to make mediation their profession. If you are considering this career path, some practical considerations are discussed below.
Parties to a dispute want mediators who can quickly understand a given conflict, analyze the legal issues presented and effectively communicate the risks to each side. This type of acuity only comes from years of experience in your chosen area of law. For this reason, mediators typically practice law for a decade or more before moving into a career as a mediator.
If feasible, it is also invaluable to gain experience representing both plaintiffs and defendants. Until you have represented each side in a case, it is difficult to truly grasp the unique desires, fears and legal challenges each party faces. This is the same for trials. While not required, it is certainly beneficial to have trial experience, as it is virtually impossible to communicate the pitfalls and complexities of a trial without having been in the arena yourself.
For those with the goal of becoming a mediator, the matter of professionalism should remain top of mind. You can zealously advocate for your client and still demonstrate respect and high ethical standards. The legal community is small. People will know less about your legal skills than they will your reputation. As you gain the experience needed to become a professional mediator, remember that the people you litigate against may someday be potential clients you are asking to refer you mediations.
No discussion of professional mediators is complete without touching on some of the interpersonal skills that are imperative to success. Parties often come to mediation with high levels of emotion. It is important for mediators to be skilled in managing difficult emotions and demonstrating empathy to earn the parties’ trust. Proficiency in active listening is tantamount.