Updated January 2023
It doesn't matter what your professional background is. Whether you're a lawyer, litigator, or work outside the legal field, there is a checklist of steps to walk through before you even consider starting your own mediation practice.
Some of these steps are purely practical, while others require a bit of self-reflection.
Do you have the right training to be taken seriously as a mediator? Are you prepared for the effort needed to strike out on your own as a practice owner? Are you familiar with mediator designations recognized throughout Canada?
Take a few minutes to read through these six key steps so you can get a better understanding of what's involved in starting your own mediation practice.
1. First, Complete quality mediation training & accreditation
Even if you have a background in law or experience negotiating disputes, you will still need to pursue quality mediation training and accreditation to start your own practice.
Effective mediation demands a refined set of specific skills—and these aren't abilities you will simply learn as you go or extrapolate from past experience. The mediator's skillset includes:
An understanding of the laws relevant to mediation
A wide range of facilitation, conflict resolution, and negotiation techniques
The principles and procedures of mediation as they pertain to family disputes, workplace conflicts, community-related disputes, and other areas
How to draft a Memorandum of Understanding and Agreement and other documents
- How to conduct an online mediation
Recognized standards and ethics that govern the practice of mediation
Your ultimate goal is to earn a professional mediator designation through the ADR Institute of Canada (ADRIC).
The first level is the Qualified Mediator (Q.Med) designation. The more advanced credential is the Chartered Mediator (C.Med) designation.
Once you have completed an ADRIC-accredited mediation course, you can pursue the Q.Med designation.
You will absolutely need this designation to set up your own practice and prove your credibility as a professional mediator.
2. Get Connected to an ADR Association
This step is simple. In order to earn the designation of Qualified or Chartered Mediator, you must become a member of the ADR Institute of Canada and its regional affiliate in your home province (see a list of regional ADR offices here).
The ADR Institute currently has more than 2,400 members across the country.
Membership offers the opportunity to network with fellow ADR professionals, access professional development training, and get help with launching, managing, and marketing your own mediation practice.
There's strength in numbers. If you don't have a business background and feel anxious about striking out on your own, you could definitely benefit from practical advice and support from successful mediators who have already walked that path.
3. Find a mediation mentor with a successful practice
Speaking of advice and support...anyone considering starting their own mediation practice should definitely seek out a mentor who has experience in this area. If you don't already know the right person, you will probably find them at your local ADR Institute.
Ask for an hour or so of their time to talk about the pros and cons of running a mediation practice. Get as much inside information as you can about setting up a business and attracting those first clients.
Above all else, get a sense of whether this path is truly right for you. The highs and lows of entrepreneurship are not for everyone.
It will take more than mediation skills to get a practice off the ground and keep it thriving over the long term (think: bookkeeping, business strategy, marketing, and practice management).
4. Map out your unique strengths as a mediator (aka your marketing angle)
Anyone considering starting their own practice should think seriously about what they have to offer as a mediator. What's pushing you to pursue this option?
This reflection exercise can help reveal whether you've got the passion, dedication, and drive to succeed in the field. It can also be used to highlight your strengths as a mediator—the unique attributes, experience, and skills you'll bring to the table.
This will help you start to define a target audience for your services, and how you'll "brand" yourself as a mediator. In essence, you'll produce the rough outline of a marketing plan.
5. Address gaps in your skillset
While you're mapping out your strengths, don't forget to acknowledge gaps in skills, training, and experience.
Part of your strategy must include a game plan for addressing those weaknesses as you move forward toward launching your own practice. This might include taking some advanced mediation training in facilitation and negotiation or earning a separate certification as a family mediator.
Maybe you need a crash course in small business bookkeeping, advertising, or networking.
What will make you a successful mediation practice owner?
6. Don't Forget, You'll need a web presence
Whether you earn new clients through word-of-mouth or get noticed while volunteering your services, you will still need a web presence to promote your practice. Prospective clients will definitely check out your website, online reviews, and social media profiles when deciding whether they'll trust you.
This has become a standard step for most of us before buying any type of product or service—and mediation services are no different.
Take some time to compare websites for mediation practices in your market area. Decide what you like best (and least) about these examples, and start putting together ideas for your own site.
The same goes for social media. You don't need to reinvent the wheel here...you can model your web presence on strategies that are already working well for other mediation practices.
Get a sense of what you want to achieve and communicate—and consider hiring a marketing person to help you put it all together.
Learn more about mediation training
If you haven't already completed a mediation course and earned your Q.Med designation, consider starting at Kompass.
Kompass offers an accredited Mediation Certificate that qualifies students to pursue the Q.Med designation.
The training is delivered online by highly experienced, certified mediators. Earn your certificate in just 12 weeks.
Click below to see complete details and chat live with an advisor. We're here to help.