Mediation Career Guide – Your Office (Excerpt)

Congratulations! If you made it through Part I, you’ve doubtless established that you are indeed credible as a mediator. Now it’s time to establish your legitimacy. Legitimacy is, I think, easier to establish than credibility. Let’s be honest. If you’ve never taken a single class as mediator, have virtually no case experience, and look like you just escaped from a federal penitentiary, you’re a long shot to ever achieving credibility. Legitimacy, in contrast, is something anyone can achieve by making a few smart business decisions.

This chapter talks about the first of those decisions — the physical place in which you conduct mediation sessions. Chapter 4 addresses the elements of marketing collateral that will further support (or undermine) your legitimacy.

Identify Your Needs

If you already practice as a psychotherapist, attorney, or financial planner, you probably already have office space. However, you should still ask yourself whether that space is suitable to serve mediation clients you’ll be targeting. A focus on, say, elder mediation will require a room that comfortably seats several people (maybe four or five adult children and their spouses), whereas a divorce mediation practice won’t need a room that large. If your clients are insurance companies, claimants, and their respective counsels, an upscale office will be necessary to enhance your legitimacy. If, on the other hand, you need to keep your costs to a minimum in order to serve a price-conscious clientele, that ritzy corner office in the downtown high-rise may deprive you of any chance to make a profit from your labors. So, step one is to identify your needs.

Evaluate Your Options

Now you have an idea of the type of space to best serve your target clientele, you can evaluate your options for securing that space. Again, the incumbent attorney, psychotherapist, or financial planner likely has suitable space already. For everyone else, here are your options.

Leased Office

I’ve identified this option first because it’s the one most people first consider, but it’s one I would rarely recommend because it usually requires a big bet — signing a lease. I like small bets. Big bets put your business in jeopardy, especially during its early months when it’s most vulnerable.

The appeal of signing a lease is quite compelling, which explains why so many people do so. In exchange for a legally binding contract that obligates you for typically twelve months or longer, you’ll gain the instant gratification of feeling legitimate. You can also now print business cars and letterhead for your new office address, and you can invite family and friends to opine on the most tasteful furnishings and décor for a mediation practice.

… More? Buy Mediating for Money: A Field Guide for Professional Mediators now.