By training as a mediator, you could help resolve and reach acceptable outcomes from legal, family or employment disputes

Some situations require a neutral perspective, to listen and understand all sides of an argument. As a mediator you'll be this person, providing equal opportunity for people involved in a dispute to speak without being judged or interrupted.

Before mediation can start, all parties must agree to participate appropriately. Once it begins, you'll act like a referee and keep everyone focused on the established aims and objectives. You'll facilitate meetings, encouraging both sides to talk and reach an agreement between themselves without having to go to court.

Types of mediation

Face-to-face sessions are the most popular kind of mediation services, although in some cases telephone, written or virtual communication is used.

You'll usually provide mediation when there are issues and disputes, involving:

  • child custody arrangements during divorce
  • crime-related justice resolution
  • employment disagreements
  • financial disputes
  • industrial strike action
  • neighbour disputes
  • organisations and people who don't want to use a court process
  • personal relationships
  • public interest
  • settlement of legal issues.

Personal issues might need a family or counselling-led mediator, whereas legal and professional disputes will require a mediator with employment or commercial knowledge.

Responsibilities

As a mediator, you'll manage cases through the whole mediation process, from referral through to resolution.

Your tasks will depend to a certain extent on the type of dispute. For example, if you're mediating between divorcing parents, sessions are an important role in the legal process to agree child custody arrangements and will be taken into consideration by a judge.

However, you'll typically need to:

  • organise initial meetings with everyone involved to discuss what needs to be resolved and undertake background research around the situation
  • explain the mediation process to everyone involved and give equal opportunity for people to take part
  • get written agreement from everyone who needs to participate in the sessions you're responsible for, to confirm they're willing to engage with the process
  • facilitate the mediation process by arranging sessions, communicating with each client and maintaining client confidentiality
  • concentrate on what everyone has to say and identify what each person wants to get out of mediation
  • make accurate and impartial notes from each session to reflect any remaining issues, as well as outcomes that have been reached, for your clients to review
  • decide how and when to assess whether mediation has been effective and where it's not helping and be able to communicate your professional judgement to everyone involved
  • work professionally within a code of practice
  • put any final agreement reached in writing and make sure all parties are clear about what the agreement means
  • carry out any appropriate follow-up communication after mediation has been completed for cases you work on.

If you're self-employed, you'll also need to:

  • spend time developing contacts across different sectors or organisations
  • maintain your own website or professional profile online
  • hold telephone discussions and respond to emails with potential clients, sending them further information before they decide whether to use you
  • build your reputation and availability
  • manage your finances, including fees, invoices, paying yourself a salary, tax and expenditure.

Salary

  • Full-time salaries for accredited mediators with less than five years' experience are between £17,000 and £22,000. You could begin by working for a personal dispute mediation service to develop your professional experience.
  • Experienced mediators can charge between £20 and £35 per person, per session if working with charitable mediation organisations, and between £75 and £150 per person, per session for specialist mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAMs) as part of family law proceedings.
  • Law graduates who also gain mediation or arbitration accreditation can charge between £350 to £500 per day for their services and expertise.

Some charitable mediation services for personal disputes and issues may employ you on a part-time or flexible employment contract to help manage their costs.

Solicitors and barristers who provide legal mediation where there is public interest can charge significant fees to prevent disruption to public services through strike action from employees or costly legal expenses using public money if disputes end up in court.

If you become a self-employed mediator, you can choose how many cases to take per month, or even per year, and set an appropriate fee according to the case and amount of work involved.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours will depend on the type of mediation you provide and whether you're self-employed or work for an organisation. For example, family law-based mediation often takes place while clients' children are at school, offering less disruption for parents and carers.

Office-based mediation services usually operate an appointment service between 9am to 5pm, although you may have to do some evening and Saturday work.

Part-time work and job sharing are both possible.

What to expect

  • You'll usually be office-based, for example at a family mediation service location. This provides a neutral setting for all clients.
  • The availability of jobs varies across the UK, especially if there's a small number of general mediation services covering a wide geographical area.
  • There are limited employment opportunities for directly employed mediators, so considering a self-employed option once you're qualified with accredited training will increase your employability and career progression.
  • Providing mediation may be your only employment, part of an existing job (for example, as a solicitor or barrister) of part of a portfolio career.
  • If you're self-employed, expect to work outside normal office hours and travel to different locations for sessions, which could be all across the UK. You'll be expected to arrange suitable venues yourself to hold mediation sessions.

Qualifications

To become a qualified mediator, you'll need to undertake a training programme accredited by a relevant professional body or council. Training requirements will depend on the type of mediation you wish to go into.

To work in civil mediation, for example, you can take a course accredited by the Civil Mediation Council in order to gain registered status. Providers such as CEDR offer training, which is usually carried out in a block of training days, combining theory and practical assessment.

To become a family law mediator, you'll need a degree and previous experience supporting people with family issues. Successful completion of a course accredited by the Family Mediation Council (FMC), as well as completion a portfolio of practice, makes you eligible for Family Mediation Accreditation. For qualification routes in Scotland, see Relationships Scotland and for Northern Ireland, see the FMNI foundation training programme.

The College of Mediators (a member of the FMC) also approves a range of foundation and continuing development courses in different areas of mediation. See College of Mediators - Foundation Mediation Training for a list of providers.

You need to show examples of relevant knowledge and experience through degree level study, volunteering or employment to be accepted onto most UK accredited mediation training.

Mediation is often a second career and you'll usually have a background and experience of working in law, social welfare, family support, human resources, workplace support or other areas representing the public interest. Relevant degree subjects include:

  • counselling
  • education
  • human resources
  • law
  • psychology
  • social science
  • social work.

These knowledge areas will help you apply the principles of mediation to relevant topics and themes that occur in mediation. Professional qualifications such as an accredited counsellor are also useful.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to speak clearly, calmly and confidently
  • resilience to cope with stressful situations concerning people's lives
  • organisation skills in order to manage appointments and case work
  • planning skills to decide where and when to hold sessions
  • a flexible and creative approach to work
  • the ability to manage conflict in a range of contexts
  • empathy and an interest in wanting to help people resolve issues
  • the ability to relate to people from a range of different backgrounds
  • impartiality to focus on the facts of a case without emotional bias
  • a thorough understanding of confidentiality.

Work experience

Life experience is important as you'll be dealing with areas of conflict. Relevant experience in the area of mediation you're interested in is essential. Paid or voluntary work with the following organisations can help prepare you for challenging mediation issues:

In legal roles, for example, you'll gain valuable experience in working to achieve acceptable outcomes and resolution for clients, which will help when you go on to do mediation training.

To work as a family mediator, you'll need experience in supporting children and adults with multiple issues. Roles in social care services, health patient advocacy or family law practice are useful.

You can also develop mediation skills from working in community liaison roles, youth offending work, social welfare jobs, trade union roles and HR.

Employers

There isn't a straightforward route into employment and you'll either have to find work within a sector or organisation that uses in-house trained mediators or set up your own business, often based on your first career, and generate work yourself.

Most accredited mediation training providers hold a professional directory of mediators where you can find work through promoting your skills, experience and track record.

Most jobs are with:

  • independent mediation services - usually multi-issue mediation services covering a regional area
  • charitable organisations - with an in-house mediation service
  • mediation member networks - covering a partnership network of varied mediation services (organisations and individuals, under one umbrella service brand).

Mediator roles may also exist within:

  • counselling organisations
  • independent advice centres
  • law firms
  • the police
  • public sector organisations in areas such as education, health and social care
  • regulatory bodies
  • specialist mediation services
  • trade unions.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) may also employ specialist mediators to provide impartial representation to help developing countries resolve internal disputes, and international communities and governments reach agreements.

Look for mediator vacancies advertised through industry or professional bodies that promote career development and mediation employment opportunities. You might already work within an area that could enable you to move across into a mediator role, once accredited.

Professional development

After completing your initial accredited training, you'll usually be supervised by an experienced mediator who will monitor and review your progress in providing professional mediation, until you've been assessed in all the required competences, to receive your full accreditation.

You'll need to keep your skills and practice up to date throughout your career. Accredited mediation training providers usually offer a range of continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, including specialist training courses, events, workshops, conferences, member resources and online news. There are also opportunities to network with other mediators. A refresher course is usually required if you don't practise your skills for an extended period.

The amount of CPD you need to do will vary depending on your area of mediation. Some areas, for example family law, will have specific requirements as you'll be working within legal processes.

You can also develop your professional knowledge through research to support the purpose and effectiveness of mediation. Undertaking research can improve your own knowledge and can help other professionals and the public understand the work of a mediator and strengthen future development.

Career prospects

Once you've established a good track record of providing effective mediation work and received professional endorsements, you'll be able to apply for more challenging or senior mediation roles. This often involves taking on more important and complex cases where the consequences of not resolving a dispute or achieving an agreed outcome would be significant. This can be particularly important in legal practice, public service or commercial roles.

There are some opportunities to move into management within mediation services, where you'd be responsible for overseeing the recruitment of staff, monitoring the quality of mediation practice, managing budgets and developing the service.

If you decide your long-term goal is to become self-employed, you'll have the opportunity to choose the cases you want to work on and develop your business in specialist areas of mediation.

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