Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution as a Sustainable Livelihood

Are you a scrupulously fair person, often intervening in others’ troubles? Do you relish an opportunity to settle a dispute equitably? Do people respond positively to you at first meetings? If you’ve answered yes to these three questions, you can enter the growing field of alternative dispute resolution.

Mediation is growing as an accepted service for settling disputes for several reasons. Principal among these is the clogged court system that can result in waits of three or more years and now the closing of courts in a number of states.  The saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied” has never been truer. The field is also gaining popularity because the cost of hiring lawyers is expensive. Attorney fees for divorces cost are in five figures. As a result, most divorces are done without legal representation. Then many disputes just don’t merit the expense. You’ll be glad to know lawyer’s fees are subject to mediation.

Some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), often mediation, is required by states like that require that before filing a lawsuits against a home owners association, the matter must first be submitted to ADR. When a lawsuit is filed in California, a portion of the cost of filing fee goes to support ADR programs.

Mediation has positive aspects that contribute to its increasing use. Mediated solutions are not made part of the public record, as are court proceedings, and the emphasis in mediation is on the disputing parties working toward a solution collaboratively with the mediator rather than in an adversarial format.

Arbitration is not to be confused with mediation. These approaches to dispute resolution are completely different. In arbitration the parties present their sets of facts and opinions to an arbitrator, sometimes called an umpires or referee, who then determines the solution on his or her own. Contracts often have provisions for arbitration and often specify the American Arbitration Association as the sole source for the person to play the role of arbitrator. If the process is “binding arbitration,” it is just that, binding on both parties.

You’ve no doubt read newspaper stories of mediators going back and forth between hotel rooms of parties to political disputes, labor disputes, and other major public events. The practice is the same when the parties are individuals as when they are governments or unions: the mediator talks to both sides, looking for the common ground on which to build compromise.

As we have seen, the mediator’s role is to bring the parties to a point of agreement on whatever their thorny issue is. The number of issues people disagree on means that mediators must be broadly trained, or they may specialize in about 100 fields. Specialties include divorce, child custody, elder, foreclosure, disaster, workplace issues, and business-to-business disputes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that industries with the highest published employment and wages for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are state government , local government, other professional, scientific, and technical services, business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations.

In the workplace, as a mediator, you will find yourself mediating disputes about harassment and other human resources matters. You might be called upon to find the solution to a business dispute about the meaning of a contract clause or delivery requirements. Mediators can find themselves developing expertise in fields they never had an interest in or fields in which they worked for an entire career.

A mediator’s working conditions can vary. Most common is neutral conference space that must be rented by the mediator; hotel spaces rented by the parties may also work well, with the mediator moving back and forth between the rooms. You could also find yourself mediating in virtual space from your home office.

As a less expensive solution and more widely available way of resolving disputes, mediation will be necessary for sustainable communities.

You can learn more from these associations and sites:

American Arbitration Association

Association for Conflict Resolution

ADR Resources

For an initial free consultation to explore this or another sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.

Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome. If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.


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