An American mediator, Suzanne Mann Duvall, surveyed 200 clients and this is what she discovered:
The following two selection criteria were most important:
- Attempt to match the personalities of the mediator, the lawyers and the client;
- The mediator’s subject matter expertise, that is, the mediator’s knowledge of the law, the judges, the courts and the expert witnesses, if any.
59% cited the mediator’s inter-personal, communication and process skills as most important, including:
- Overall communication skills including questioning techniques “live in the question” “ask don’t tell” and story-telling;
- Empathy, the ability to establish trust and provide a comfort level;
- “Being there”; that is, be hard-working, engaged and involved. Mediator’s persistence and patience were also mentioned.
The remaining 41% were looking for:
- An ability to conduct an assertive risk-evaluation process with all parties in the mediation including one’s own clients;
- Involving the clients by asking (a) probing questions that test unrealistic expectations and (b) brainstorm and make suggestions as to possible solutions to the problems involved.
What lawyers did not like were:
- Mediators who are confrontational and who resort to bullying clients and/or their lawyers;
- Uninvolved mediators who are nothing more than passive messengers.
Mediator horror stories include:
Mediator inattention, the mediator who persists in falling asleep, the drunk mediator and mediators who scream obscenities at the lawyers and their clients.
Source: Mann Duvall, Suzanne. What Do You Expect From Me?” Texas Association of Mediators. 2011.