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What Was DRS Thinking?

Posted By Sarah P. Campbell, Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mediator Recertification Rules Revisions

By Sally Campbell
Dispute Resolution Services Manager

This past fall the Judicial Council adopted revisions to the recertification rules for certified mediators. DRS spent the previous year and a half vetting potential changes with certified mediators and statewide mediation entities.

It’s that vetting-with-the-mediators part that got a little hairy.

In 2016, when DRS proposed dropping the “mediate 5 cases in 2 years” recertification requirement, it had been around for decades. Every recertification cycle, mediators grumbled about case documentation. Experienced mediators suggested experience-based waivers and didn’t want to let go. From DRS’s perspective, no one liked it much.

But mediator response to our suggestion gutted that point of view. They said, “Hey, you have to practice to be a good mediator!” and “It’s not fair -- people could get the certification credential and stay credentialed, but never need the same experience as those of us who mediate a lot.” Didn’t DRS see that this weakened the value of mediator credentialing and certification?

No, not at all. Practice the craft, for sure. But, given the privacy barrier surrounding mediations, consider what points to good mediator skills or poor mediator skills. Research shows extensive experience does not necessarily equal expert performance. Practicing poor skills over and over maintains poor skills, meaning quantity of mediations isn’t necessarily a measure of quality. By all means, practice. But add these to your practice if you haven’t: seek feedback from mediators you respect; reflect deliberately on your work; co-mediate; read; join or create a peer consultation group. Practice deliberately with an eye toward improvement.

Want to distinguish yourself from other certified mediators? Maybe the outside world does equate quality with quantity. Market yourself. Dangle that number of cases you mediate out there where potential clients can see. Entice them with your long history of certification.

What was DRS’s thinking, then, with this proposal? Here are the insights that drove it:

  1. Few, if any, regulated professions (mediation is a profession, yes?) require proof of experience for continuing credentialing (think lawyers, doctors, hair stylists, pipefitters). What is it about the mediation profession that mediators should be more scrutinized?
  2. The Standards of Ethics bars mediators from serving if they cannot do so with competence. Proving 5 cases mediated in 2 years comes in a poor second to outright competence.
  3. Quantity of practice doesn’t necessarily correlate to quality.
  4. Recertification requirements should be meaningful.

A final few thoughts on the case requirement. If dropping it leads to more uncertified mediators becoming certified, maybe that means more mediators will be well-trained, which would only reflect well on the profession. The credentialing gives parties a mechanism to report poor mediation practices, protecting the public and bolstering public confidence in mediator certification. It also gives mediators in Virginia remarkable statutory immunity. Wins for the public and the mediator, all the way around.

(For information on other revisions to the recertification requirements, see page 5 of the Joint Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee's Winter 2017 edition of Virginia ADR.)

Tags:  craft  Dispute Resolution Services  mediator skills  mediators  practice  recertification  rules revisions  Sally Campbell  Standards of Ethics  Virginia ADR 

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