How do I choose a mediator?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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You can choose a mediator who is a specialist in the subject matter of your dispute, a specialist in dispute resolution, or a mediator who is both an expert in the subject matter of the dispute and an expert in dispute resolution. Most people would choose someone who is an expert in the field of your dispute and in dispute resolution. While such professional mediators are likely to charge a higher daily fee, they may require fewer days or help you reach a better solution, and thus can be very cost effective.
If the dispute does not involve enough money or an important enough issue to justify a large expenditure on dispute resolution, it's usually better to choose someone who is an expert in dispute resolution, rather than an expert in the subject matter. An expert in dispute resolution does not decide who is "right," but instead helps the parties reach an agreement.
Court Ordered Mediation
If you have already filed your lawsuit and the mediation is ordered by the court, many courts will further narrow your available choices for a mediator. In fact, in most states the judge will present a list of five mediation organizations. You and the opposing party must both agree on a certain organization and set up the mediation. Additionally, certain courts will also require a round of mediation through a free court mediation program. When this is the case, neither you nor the opposing party will choose your mediator. An available mediator will simply sign up for your case and you will meet them for the first time on the day of your mediation.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Mediator
There are some important factors that must be considered when choosing a mediator, whether you have a choice or not. If you or the opposing party knows the mediator personally, you should not use this mediator. This is because the role of a mediator is to remain completely neutral and any previous contact or relationship with a mediator could prevent them from being genuinely unbiased.
The best way to set your mind at ease when selecting a mediator is to conduct an initial interview with the mediator. These interviews are typically done over the phone with both parties and the mediator on the call. The interview allows both parties the chance to get a feel for that particular mediator and determine whether they are the right fit for the dispute in need of mediation.