Tools and Resources for Professional Mediators
1. Mediator’s Opening Statement
What happens in those first few minutes of your mediation will likely dictate your effectiveness during the rest of the session. Start badly and you’ll struggle to command the respect of your clients as you try to salvage the process thereafter. Start strongly and your clients will realize they’re in the assured hands of a professional, enabling them to place their trust in you as their guide through the unfolding conversation.
Every mediator’s opening statement will be a little different. The following statement has worked well for me in some 500 mediations. I practice the facilitative model of mediation. The greater number of my cases are in divorce, family, and relational mediation (including small business and HOA/TIC disputes), but my opening statement varies little from one case to another. Read on.
Every mediator’s contract is a custom document specific to his/her own practice and best developed in consultation with an attorney versed in contract law. However, I’ve made my Agreement to Mediate form available here on MediationCareer.org for use as a starting point. You may wish to use it as a foundation while amending it according to your needs. It may also include clauses that you had not previously considered incorporating.
Download sample mediation contract (PDF)[~ 1600 words]
When parties reach an agreement at the end of mediation, it’s usually appropriate to record the terms as a Memorandum of Understanding. A Memorandum of Understanding is not a legally binding contract. Rather, it is exactly what its name suggests — a memorandum (i.e. written record) of an understanding (i.e. a presumed or provisional agreement).
Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) are particularly appropriate in mediation because the terms of a mediated settlement usually develop over time — perhaps over several lengthy mediation sessions. As such, the possibility arises of the parties’ (as well the mediator who drafts the MoU) having different understandings as to what has been supposedly agreed. The Memorandum exposes any such differences and, if none exist, establishes in writing a common understanding. The parties can then sign this document to indicate their acceptance of its terms. Read on.
4. Mediator Revenue and Expense Tracker (MeRET™)
Running a business without real-time visibility into its financial performance is like driving down a freeway with your eyes shut. Suppose you have a succession of extremely satisfied clients, and suppose you’re in such demand that you must place new clients on a three-month wait list. Evidently, you’re providing a quality service that clients value. But if your business is losing between $2000 and $2500 each month, your mediation practice isn’t sustainable.
Financial management begins with tracking the financial performance — specifically, developing a sense of money received from clients each month (your revenue), costs incurred (your expenses) to serve those clients, and how much profit you’re making (the difference between your revenue and your expenses). The MeRET mediation practice management utility was developed specifically for tracking the financial performance of a mediation practice. Indeed, it’s the only solution of its kind, made exclusively for mediators. If you have Microsoft Excel or use either the free OpenOffice.org suite or Google Docs, you can use MeRET™. Learn more.