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Becoming A Mediator: An Insiders Guide To Exploring Careers In Mediation (Book Review)

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For those mediators who are still asking themselves the question, “Should I Really Be A Mediator?” Lovenheim’s book is truly an excellent source to help the reader answer this question. Lovenheim is not concerned primarily with Mediation styles so much as he is focused on what being a mediator is really all about. To exemplify how Lovenheim explains this to the reader, the following quote from his introduction is illustrative:

“If you’re going the independent route – setting up a practice as an independent mediator – you have to be prepared to do relentless marketing. Unfortunately, many of the people who want to get into the business don’t want to do relentless marketing. But that is the reality of the field. The truth is, it’s harder sometimes to get cases than to settle cases.”

The author’s statement above is quite indicative of his style throughout the book. It is his intent, to help people who are really interested in mediation and to give a “reality check” to those who are not sure. In addition, the author helps people figure out if they might be more interested in some type of mediation associated field, such as case management or Executive Director of a mediation company.

Lovenheim starts with a brief description of “What is Mediation?” He follows this up with an explanation of the types of cases that Mediators hear. Often mediators are disillusioned about precisely the type of disputes they will be dealing with when they become mediators. Lovenheim describes well, the types of disputes that different types of mediators will be see in different venues.

In addition, the author gives descriptions of general skills, character traits and basic outlooks that generally tend to be present in “good mediators.” Lovenheim is careful and precise, when he says that the particular background or the particular skills of a potential mediator are not the definitive indicators of whether the person will be a successful mediator or not. Many people have styles that would not be predicted as successful mediation styles, yet they have a way of dealing with people that allow them to be effective. Lovenheim really recommends, that in order to figure out if you are going to be a good mediator, that you try it, usually in a low risk environment such as a community mediation center, particularly if you will be co-mediating with a panel.

The author also points out the value of education. While it is true that in most places in the United States there are no formal qualifications to be a mediator, Lovenheim explains that to represent that one is a mediator, without some training, would be not only unprofessional, but would also not be fair to the client. Mediator training is an essential part of learning the process, and particularly in divorce, many court rules and requirements must be understood before one tries to help couples forge a proper divorce agreement. With the exception of the question of the difference between “certification” and “certificated”, Lovenheim explains what one would expect from a class in mediation skills. In many states, the designation “certified” implies State regulation, and therefore, mediators, despite the accumulation of certificates, are not actually “certified”, but in fact “certificated.” In some venues such as certain Federal Mediation programs, “certification” is given. And in some states, “certification” is required. But by and large at this point in time, it is not required.

Lovenheim follows this with two excellent chapters. The first deals with the realities of being a mediator and the job opportunities for mediators. The different general types of mediators are explained. The potential for success is revealed. Lovenheim goes so far as to include a chart indicating what one could expect in various types of mediation jobs.

Immediately subsequently, he presents a chapter that deals with mediation support positions. He explains that some people may wish very much to be involved in mediation, but they feel for whatever reasons, they would not be adequate mediators. For these types of people there may be even more opportunities than for mediators. Mediation centers and mediation providers all need administrative support and many need sales representation. Lovenheim explains these types of positions and the expectations that one should bring to them. Again, he organizes this information into an easy to read chart, which summarizes the information for the reader.

Even for the experienced mediator, Lovenheim gives recommendations and suggestions that are valuable. When speaking about the kinds of cases mediators hear, Lovenheim quotes Professor Jack Ethridge of Emory University Law School as saying:

“Litigation paralyzes people. It makes them enemies. It pits them not only against one another, but against the other’s employed combatant. Often disputants lose control of the situation, finding themselves virtually powerless. They attach allegiance to their lawyer rather than to the fading recollection of a perhaps once worthwhile relationship.”

Mediators would do well to remember this advice and not forget, that one of the functions of the mediator is to mitigate power imbalances in the process.

Also, in a word to the wise, Lovenheim gives the following warning:


Lovenheim explains why he feels this way, through the five factors that he feels are common to mediators as they do their jobs:

  • Isolation
  • Helper Role
  • Limited Positive Feedback
  • Confidential Information
  • Filtered Reaction Role

He summarizes these thoughts by quoting Jerome Barrett’s statement, author of “The Psychology of a Mediator”:

“(the mediator is) an outside intervener, working under high stress on the problems of others … in isolation from any support groups, and bound by a strict code of confidentiality. The mediator’s opportunities for positive feedback are limited, the success of his performance is difficult to measure, and he is subjected to the manipulation of the parties.”

While these things are true, the mediator who is prepared to meet this environment or even who thrives within this environment, can be extremely successful. But the author is careful to advise potential mediators, that while there are some very successful people in mediation, the field is not a “Get Rich Quick” career path. Additionally, to help deal with some of the cautions above, there are various groups and support organizations that do assist mediators in dealing with these psychological effects. Lovenheim is “reader-friendly” in his appendices, which include such things as “Sample Rules of Mediation”, “Standards of Conduct for Mediators”, “Statewide Mediation Offices”, “National and Regional Mediation Organizations” and several other helpful information items for the mediator. Lovenheim has succeeded in presenting his topic in a very concise and readable format. Mediators would be well advised to read his comments.


Jon Linden

Jon Linden is a Mediator, Trainer and Business Consultant. He holds an BS in biology and an MBA, both from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Jon spent 20 years in the Food Service Distribution business, where he was the COO and Sr. V-P of a Distribution Center of a major… MORE >

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