The practice of mediation attracts people from a wide range of professional backgrounds. Some are planning to launch full-time careers as professional mediators. Others simply want to improve their communication and conflict management skills, so they can perform at a higher level at work.
But if you're interested in becoming a certified mediator, and want to set up your own private practice, there are a few important things to know about the process before you get started.
This post will walk you through selecting a reputable mediator training program, getting recognized by the ADR Institute of Canada, and earning your very first clients. Let's get started.
1. Familiarize yourself with the role of a mediator
In simple terms, a mediator helps opposing parties resolve their dispute out of court. Unlike litigation or arbitration, the outcome of a mediation is not legally binding—participants must agree to comply with the resolution they've negotiated together.
The mediator helps facilitate that resolution. They are experts in guiding discussions, uncovering root issues, diffusing tension, and helping people see conflict from multiple perspectives.
The goal is to help parties come together, so they can propose solutions, and find an outcome that satisfies everyone. Along the way, participants learn how to strengthen their communication skills during times of conflict—which is, in and of itself, a huge benefit of engaging in mediation.
What kinds of disputes do mediators handle? There are many practice areas, but some of the most common are workplace, contracts, and family conflicts.
So, what sort of natural aptitude should you possess to consider going into this field? Our very own Mediation for Professionals instructor, Louie Spedaliere LL.B, identifies the characteristics that matter most for beginners:
"Our students come from all walks of life...law, human resources, education, health care, social work. What they all have in common is strong communication skills. They are good listeners, and have a natural flair for negotiation and problem-solving. Most importantly, they are passionate about improving these skills through the work we do in class."
2. Enroll in an accredited Mediator Training Program
Mediator training comes in all shapes and sizes. There are programs at universities, colleges, and professional associations—some quite intensive, and others spread out over weeks or months.
You'll find options to complete your mediation certificate online, in a physical classroom, or some combination of the two. So, there's no shortage of varied, flexible alternatives out there.
However, you will find that the content of these programs differs from one institution to the next, depending on the mix of required courses, electives, and focal points of study. So, what should you look for in a reputable mediation course?
In addition to finding a learning format that works best for you, your goal is to select a program that is accredited by the ADR Institute of Canada. The ADR Institute is the country's most widely recognized and respected association for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) professionals.
The Institute sets high standards for training, and only accredits programs that meet those standards. Plus, you want your mediation course to pave the way to certification with the ADR Institute—so choosing a recognized program is key. More on that next...
3. Complete your certification with the ADR Institute
Once you've completed an accredited mediation course, you'll be on track to apply for the ADR Institute's first level of mediator certification: the Qualified Mediator (Q. Med.) designation.
You don't have to earn this designation to practice as a mediator in Canada. However, becoming a member of the Institute, and carrying the Q. Med. designation, will give you an undeniable badge of legitimacy as a new professional in the field.
The ADR Institute also offers members networking opportunities, career support, and professional development opportunities.
In order to qualify for the Q. Med., you need:
- 40 hours of recognized mediation training
- to complete certain advanced, or elective, courses
- to have successfully completed 2 mediations (these could be part of your training program, and assessed by your instructor)
- to become a member of the ADR Institute (both the national association, and your provincial affiliate)
Take a look at this list to see a complete breakdown of requirements for certification with the ADR Institute of Canada. Keep in mind that each province has their own affiliated ADR branch, and may present additional prerequisites for Q. Med. candidates.
Your first step is to get acquainted with the Institute, explore the benefits of membership, and the levels of designation you can achieve as a professional mediator. Click here to visit the ADR Institute website and learn more about what they do.
4. Earn your first mediation clients
One of your biggest hurdles as a new mediator will be attracting those first few clients. Before you even start mediator training, give some thought to how you'll promote your practice, and land your first professional mediations.
Important things to consider include:
- what audiences you'll target
- what mediation services you'll offer (what areas of practice will you specialize in?)
- how much time and money you'll need to launch your practice (when can you quit your day job?)
- what help will you need to set up a website and social presence for your business?
- what steps can you take to network within your community, and get the word out about your services? (maybe you can offer a few free mediations to get the ball rolling)
Other strategies include connecting with public bodies that work with mediators—such as the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, or Social Justice Tribunals.
Don't forget, it will be really important to get referrals from your first satisfied clients, and then leverage those to attract new business. If you're persistent, and perform well, you'll see your practice begin to flourish. Louie Spedaliere tells his students:
"Getting new clients as a mediator is easy, so long as you're willing to network and market yourself. More than ever, companies are looking to mediation to avoid the high costs of litigation, and this trend is expected to continue well into the future."
Interested in learning more about becoming a mediator, or the theory and skills you'll learn in quality mediator training? Use the links below to explore the online mediation certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development.
Our program is accredited by the ADR Institute, and meets requirements for the Q. Med. designation.