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Comments on Certification
A Supplement to a Newsletter from ADR Resources
The topic of this supplement: Certification of Mediators
Mediator certification usually comes up in the context of court-annexed mediation (for the purposes of this essay, defined as mediation of a conflict that has already resulted in a lawsuit and mediation as a process resulting from a referral by a court).
It is driven by two groups: judges who want more comfort in their referrals to mediators and mediators (often non-lawyers) who want better access to referrals from judges.
As the mediation process in a state matures, the drive for certification dies down. It is then renewed, usually by lawyer-mediators seeking to thin out the ranks of competitors and by judges who are concerned about possible (and actual) problems and abuses they had not thought of before.
This second wave effort also tends to die down (or bog down) too.
Finally, at some point, someone realizes that rather than certifying mediators, the state should certify training programs (much like the ABA certifies law schools). This bogs down completely, unless the initial pool of training is university driven, in which case certification tends to develop as a second nature (e.g. see Kansas). Note that sometimes this step comes before the others (e.g. Texas).
There are several reasons for this process and why while I admire those courts seeking to regulate mediators, I am beginning to think that this essay will suffice rather than the interviews I seem to give once every three-four months to another court's researcher.
I have yet to be able to find a nice, elegant way to wrap the above into a tidy package, but those five points (and you can search for the supporting materials at http://adrr.com/search/searchnow.htm if you don't remember the links) cover the basics of why so many certification projects begin with noble goals, progress to the important points (especially regulating training programs) and why they eventually fade out into stagnation.
So, do I think that certification is a good idea? Yes, especially of trainers.
Do I think it is an idea whose time has come? Kind of, I think it is an idea whose time has passed.
What about the real issues (e.g. choosing the right kind of mediator for each case, etc.) -- if court's had the time to spend on each case to do full and in depth evaluation they wouldn't be referring cases to mediation (since almost all courts start referring cases to mediation as a part of docket control). The only solution I have now is that attorneys should learn enough about mediation and mediators that they can pick and choose the right mediator for each case as it is referred to mediation. That is what I do.
As for community mediation, victim-offender, transformative workplace mediation, facilitation initiatives, public policy disputes, etc.? Those are a completely different topic. See http://adrr.com/smu/health/index.htm for an idea of just how different they can be.
I welcome thoughts and feedback on this topic. Each researcher I've given an interview in the past couple-three years has promised me copies of their conclusions and results and I've yet to see a finished report ready for release.
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