Should Mediators Be Credentialed?

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Written By: Todd V. McMurtry

I recently spoke at the Kentucky Bar Association’s Kentucky Law Update on behalf of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. One of the topics I addressed related to whether mediators should be credentialed. In general, the concept of requiring a mediator to be credentialed is similar to a lawyer being licensed to practice law or a doctor being licensed to practice medicine. Today, mediators are not credentialed. They may be trained, but they are not required to pass a test.

As I discussed at the seminar, two major institutions recently have considered the issue of credentialing. They are the ABA Task Force on Mediator Credentialing and the International Mediation Institute. The ABA Task Force issued its final report on credentialing to which the International Mediation Institute responded. Both organizations concluded that requiring mediators to become credentialed would not necessarily improve the quality of mediations. Their findings focused on the idea that parties choose mediators whom they know get results. These two bodies did not want to artificially limit the available mediators by requiring them to pass a test. In essence, they concluded that there may be an advantage to provide minimum qualifications through credentialing, but a mediator’s ability to be effective is governed as much by that person’s personality and knowledge of the law as by their training.

I had the opportunity to offer my opinion to the attorneys gathered for the seminar. I agreed with the ABA Task Force’s opinion. But, I did endorse the idea that mediators are well served to attend formal mediation training. I attended the Harvard Mediation Institute, and found it to be extremely helpful. The advantage of obtaining an education in mediation, as opposed to simply doing what works, is that formal instruction does provide additional tools that one may not know. (There is more than one way to obtain a successful result in mediation). As well, to attend a program like Harvard’s exposes the participant to many other successful mediators and mediation strategies.

So, while I do not think that mediators should have to obtain credentials to serve as a mediator, I do think it is a good idea to make the effort to undergo the more formal training provided by schools like Harvard and Pepperdine, both of which are recognized as the best programs in the United States.

Todd V. McMurtry is a Member at Hemmer DeFrank Wessels, PLLC.  He is a commercial trial attorney and Harvard trained mediator.  Todd has been married to his wife, Maria C. Garriga, for 30 years.  They have three adult children.

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