Four Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Mediator

I just did a count of the cases I mediated last year and came up with 148 total, which is an average of 2.85 each week. This is about what I’ve been doing for the last several years. As I often tell people, there aren’t a whole lot of us mediators out there who are on the approved list for the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution (GODR) and who are mediating full-time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a good number of mediators out there but their qualifications are different.

So, I’d like to share what to look for in a mediator when you’re shopping around.

1.       Registration. Are they on the GODR list? You can look this up here. If they are, it means they’ve completed an approved training, keep up with continuing education units and have clear background checks. If they aren’t on the list, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have the above under their belt and aren’t a fine mediator. It just means you’ll have to ask more questions if you want to know these qualifications.

2.       Training. What kind of training did they receive and when? Ideally, they would have had at least forty hours of training with a practicum to follow and if they mediate family cases then they also should have completed the domestic violence training. If they received their training recently, they probably haven’t mediated a bunch. If they trained many years ago, that’s fine as long as they’ve actually been mediating since. To say you completed training in 2009 and have mediated 10 cases since shows a lack of experience. And with mediation, as most professions, experience is key.

3.       Quantity. How many cases have they ever mediated or how many do they average each year. If they can tell the total number then they aren’t very busy or they just really like tracking numers. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not a good mediator, just not very experienced. I can’t tell you how many I’ve mediated in the almost 20 years I’ve been doing this but I can tell you I average around 130 each year.

4.       Pricing. Just because a mediator charges $300 (or more) per hour does not mean they have the experience to back it up. Some of the best in town keep their rates at $150 or $200 under the theory that they don’t want to scare people away from what is an incredibly valuable process. Not that $200 per hour isn’t a scary number but it is what you should expect for a private mediation rate. Ask their hourly rate and if they charge for agreement writing or any other necessary services. Also ask about their cancellation policy as emergencies do happen and it’s good to know what you’re in for just in case.

Bottom line, the amount of experience really shows in this line of work so make sure you ask the right questions.