Summary of "Mediation Career Guide -- A Strategic Approach to Building a Successful Practice"

Summary of

Mediation Career Guide -- A Strategic Approach to Building a Successful Practice

By Forrest S. Mosten

Summary written by Sabra Anckner, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Mosten, Forrest S., 2001. Mediation Career Guide -- A Strategic Approach to Building a Successful Practice. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

This book is a very informative "how to" guide to establishing a career in mediation. Mosten, himself a working mediator, begins his book with a section entitled, "Is Mediation Right for You?" The five chapters offer tips and advice in determining whether or not working in the field is the right choice. Chapter One asks, "Can Mediation Be Your Day Job?" It offers a research plan, in which the reader can ask the right questions of the right people to determine if mediation is for them, encouraging conversations with lawyers, court employees, and parties in litigations to determine whether the traditional court litigation system works for them. Mosten then encourages a value assessment: How important is mediation as a concept? Are you committed to peacemaking and making a living through mediation? Having thought about these questions, the reader moves on to Chapter Two, "Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Mediator?" As the title suggests, Mosten covers some of the attributes necessary for a successful mediation career. He lists personality traits, such as good listening, patience and empathy as essential. Also included is the Academy of Family Mediators' Mediation Tree of Values, which lists some of the key values in mediation, and Mosten encourages readers to look at it to determine if those listed are values that they share.

Chapter Three -- "Can You Do the Work?" -- covers the skills required for good mediation. Identified as different roles, these include the teacher, facilitator, referee, and recording secretary. Each is explained in detail. "Education and Training," Chapter Four, offers insight into what kind of training mediators will need, depending on what kind of background they have. The debate over the necessity of a law degree is addressed. Types of mediation training outside of the formal university setting are described, and programs at universities and colleges -- many of which are still in fledgling stages of development -- are also covered. Mosten includes a list of questions to ask and qualities to look for in selecting a conflict resolution or mediation graduate program. Lastly, there is a brief discussion of certification requirements that some states have.

The all-important "When I am ever going to use this?" is answered in Chapter Five, "Job Opportunities in Mediation." Opportunities are divided into two sections, salaried and opening your own private practice. Salaried positions are typically in government, through federal programs or the court system, teaching, non-profit agencies, and in the private sector. Private practice is the most popular route for trained mediators, although that is changing as mediation becomes a more common mode of conflict resolution and jobs become available within other organizations and agencies.

Part Two, "Building your Career as a Mediator," begins with "Creating Your Mediation Signature," Chapter Six. Here, the author says that the "twin foundations of a mediation practice are craft and clients." He describes the mediation signature as a way that potential clientele can discern your services from that of others. Included is a helpful chart, "The Mediation Abacus," which offers the various perspectives a mediator might take, such as therapeutic to just-facts-and-law, or voluntary participation to mandatory, court-ordered. Chapter Seven, "Expanding Your Mediation Services," offers tips on how to widen the areas you market yourself in. This is similar to the current trend of lawyers offering Ãƒ¡ la carte services on an as-needed basis, rather than just offering one large all-in-one affair. Chapter Eight is one of the most important in developing your own practice, "Defining Your Target Market." Mosten offers tips on how to reach your current clientele with new tools, how to define your skills -- from a generalist to a specialist -- in addition to covering general marketing strategies.

Chapter Nine changes course, and discusses "Creating a Mediation-Friendly Environment." Included is a self-quiz to determine if your office will be welcoming to clients. Topics also include designing, furnishing and equipping your office; tips for accommodating different types of learners, and training your staff. There are several checklists and tips to ensure a friendly, yet professional, environment.

Part Three, "The Nuts and Bolts of Private Practice," is specifically geared toward those who decide to open their own mediation business. It begins with Chapter Ten, "Setting Up Your Office." This describes the various locales that you could work from, including the home office and more traditional office space. Mosten covers different lease agreements, from month-to-month to long-term. He briefly offers tips for naming your practice, and then discusses partnerships that may be beneficial to your business and career. These include mediation panels, networks, and exclusive mediator provider organizations. Mosten calls Chapter Eleven -- "Strategic Planning and Investing in Yourself" -- the most boring for you to read, "and maybe the most important for your practice development." Here he lays out the processes of developing a mission statement, a budget of capital investment, and a budget of time investment. The author explains that a mediator can expect to spend a minimum of 1,000 hours per year building his or her practice, not including hours spent with clients. A private mediation practice, similar to that of a law firm, takes time to develop, and more time to maintain. There is no forty-hour week. Finally, the reader is walked through the steps of writing a business plan, a very important step in a successful business, according to Mosten.

"Managing Your Practice," Chapter Twelve, aims to help you maintain your business, now that it is up and running. The first step: be committed to quality. This includes your skill at conflict resolution, as well as the professional appearance of your office, your staff's training and abilities, and other representations of your business. He also offers ways in which you can better serve your clients, from the little things (keep the candy dishes full) to the big things, like calling all parties the day after a resolution has been reached to ensure that everyone is still satisfied and not suffering from "day-after remorse." He offers several options of intake models, essential for new client assessment. Another important, though often-overlooked concern, is that of payment. The author outlines different ways of billing (hourly, session rates, flat fees) and ways to accept payment, and when that payment is due. Following that is "Marketing Your Practice Effectively," which offers tips on launching your practice, networking with referral sources, strategic marketing, and community outreach. He also recommends presentations, teaching, writing articles and developing mediation materials that can be used by others as great ways to market your practice.

Chapter Fourteen asks, "What Do You Do Next Monday?" It is a brief summary of what has been covered, and what steps to take now, if after reading the book you feel ready to embark on the development of a mediation practice. The Epilogue, or "The Evolving Field of Mediation," offers tips on how to adjust to this constantly changing line of work. Following that are several appendices, including the mediator self-survey, professional standards and model legislation, a list of training programs in the field, and a thorough bibliography of books and resources on the topic, including Internet sites. There is a list of organizations devoted to conflict resolution, from member organizations to university research projects, followed by sample job opportunities and sample forms for use in private practice.

This book is incredibly thorough and helpful to anyone considering mediation as a profession, especially if they desire to go into private practice. Readers can focus on the development of their skills and practice, because little that needs to be done has been left out of this book. From initial skills assessment to your first day in your new office, Mosten has outlined every step you need to take to ensure a profitable experience.