Should there be a higher accreditation threshold for Mediation?

The respected and renowned international mediator, Bill Marsh, recently commented in a personal article on LinkedIN, “My oldest son started work as a barrister in London this week. Aside from the proud dad moment, it is a telling reminder that the wheel of life has turned another circle. His generation of lawyers is committed, passionate, professional and hungry. The same applies to the next generation of mediators. We must make space for them. They will, if we listen, teach us much, and put their own stamp on our beloved practice”.

People gain accreditation for differing reasons and not everyone aspires to be a full time (or relative full time) mediator. A common theme voiced by many accredited mediators that are aspiring for a career in practicing mediation is that there are too many mediators or the ability to gain experience is ‘limited’.

A large number of accredited mediators aspiring for a full time role have the potential to be ‘good’ or better. Many may never cut what is required in the ‘real’ world.. But to reach that level, execution and mediation hours are required. All of the current established mediators, like Bill, have had to go through the same process of carving out a career in mediation. No one has had it easy and therefore why should the likes of Bill et all ‘make space’ for the newbies?

If you are engaged with a firm or come from a disputes related background there is some form of path to follow or be guided by. If not the remit is pretty much network and get your name out there (a bit like this post), book observations and keep at it. In return many established mediators become inundated with requests for observations from ‘new mediators.

To be an entry level counsellor requires 3-4 years study and then 100 hours of practice. To become a solicitor takes, well many of you know the answer to that. To become a doctor gets close to double digit years. To become an accredited mediator, depending on the course provider, takes DAYS.

Therefore, rather than newly accredited mediators scrambling for observations and first time mediations. Should FULL accreditation achievement, for those who wish to practice mediation as a pretty much full time career, become a tad more difficult or be granted after xx hours of actual assigned mediations, managed and allocated by the accrediting company? Should there be different ‘tiers’ of accreditation to recognise those who have ‘done the hours’ or practiced to warrant full time mediation?

This would give the ‘buyers’ of mediators more comfort of ‘new’ mediators and arguably would give more comfort to experienced mediators. In the words of Bill Marsh “to make space for the new mediators”.

Conversely, is the accreditation process fine but there needs to be more of a route map for budding full time mediators outside of pure observations and networking? Or do  we just accept that market competition and the creativity of individuals will dictate survivors and non survivors?

As always the outcome will vary on people’s individual circumstances, background and skill set etc. These comments apply to those seeking to practice in mediation and not to those seeking to become accredited and use the fine skills they have learnt in the workplace or their chosen field. That said, I’ve not come across anyone to date who has said “there are not enough mediators out there”. The common theme appears to be, ”there are too many new mediators for the volume of business that’s actually out there”.

So, what are people’s thoughts on this area? Should accreditation be tiered with hours required to reach full accreditation? Do we have too many mediators? Is everything fine as is and we just accept that market competition will dictate survivors and non survivors? Or perhaps you have another comment or view to add?

1 Comment

  1. Martin Plowman on 18th December 2019 at 11:07 am

    A thought provoking post, Peter.

    In the finest tradition of mediation, I find myself in the middle ground. On the one hand, being able to call oneself a Mediator after a five day course is absurd. In fact, it’s worse than that: in our unregulated profession, it’s not unlawful to skip even the five day course and just to call oneself a mediator, without any training at all. I know some who do. That can’t be right. Against which, i don’t welcome anything that introduces more regulation and more bureaucracy into the profession, in part because it will inevitably put up barriers to new mediators. So what’s the answer? I don’t know. Sorry. It’s certainly good to start the debate.

    One observation to conclude with: a little more honesty from some (not all!) of the training bodies about just how competitive the profession is wouldn’t go amiss!

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