Find Mediators Near You:

Mediation’s identity crisis: it’s time to regulate the profession

Mediation has been struggling with an identity crisis for years now. It’s been confused with meditation. It’s often mistaken for arbitration. And more recently an Illinois governor characterized a state-funded gang mediation program as “pork” to be trimmed from an overbloated budget. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

In the grand scheme of things, these are harmless errors that should prod professional mediators to do a better job at marketing and packaging their services and educating the public about mediation’s advantages. Of far greater concern though to the field is the questionable use by a debt collection agency of the words “legal mediation” as part of the name of its business, reported today by Chris Annunziata at CKA Mediation & Arbitration Blog.

Chris observes, “As a libertarian, I am loathe to advocate governmental intervention, but shouldn’t the bar in these states regulate the use of the term ‘legal’ and ‘mediation’?”

While I agree with Chris that state bars should monitor the use of the word “legal” by businesses to describe their services, I am not sure that it’s any business of the bar to regulate the use of the word “mediation” — not when so many professional mediators are not attorneys and there is no requirement that mediators in private practice must also be members of the bar. Moreover, while it is true that a very few state courts do certify certain classes of mediators in court-connected programs, no U.S. state currently possesses the power to license mediators or to regulate the private practice of mediation.

This instance illustrates how urgent the need is for the mediation field here in the U.S. to move now to develop a formal system to qualify mediators and regulate the profession. The future of the field depends upon it; public confidence demands it. We can no longer argue that regulation will thwart innovation in a still developing field, that it is unnecessary or will be too costly, that it will discourage otherwise qualified individuals from entering the field, or that mediation itself resists definition.

We should act now, before others define mediation for us. It is, at last, time.

                        author

Diane J. Levin

Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property… MORE >

Featured Mediators

ad
View all

Read these next

Category

The Best Ten Minutes You’ll Spend All Day

It was the breakthrough that we had been looking for. We had been talking for about forty minutes and my client was spinning their wheels the entire time. Was it...

By Jason Dykstra
Category

Embedding Mediation in South African Justice

In the hit television serial “The Mentalist”, the main character walks into a house with a policeman. The policeman does not have a warrant to enter the house. A gang...

By Jacques Joubert
Category

Someone Really Really Difficult to Get Along With?

Most people get along with others. There might be the odd bit of friction between a person or two, but for the most part, most people get along. There is...

By Gary Direnfeld
×