Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

July 26, 2006

Guest David B. River: Mediation Is Not a Subset Of Law

Filed under: Attorneys and Mediators - No Conflict Here!,Ethics — Gini @ 1:51 pm

Guest David B. River continues today with the second of 4 conversations about ethics and professional development in mediation. He and Rawle Andrews Jr., Esq. are guest blogging on alternating weeks during this discussion.

I really want to thank Rawle Andrews for his thoughts. It is exactly the conversation I crave to have, and to have such a well respected attorney-mediator to have the conversation with is an honor.

First of all, I am totally congruent with Rawle in one of his conclusions – I have no problem with the valuable service that he and good attorneys provide. I honor it, respect it, and think it is a vital part of society. I am clear that it is a valuable service to my clients who consult with attorneys during their mediation. I in no way want to diminish the legal profession.

That said, my basic declaration in response to Rawle’s blog is this: Mediation is not a subset of law.

Rawle writes: “why resort to [alternative degree plans for mediators] if law schools simply can add a course to an already established degree plan, or attorney mediators can audit such non-traditional social science courses on their own time.”

I have trained several hundred mediators. In general, the group who has the greatest difficulty in the mediator role is attorneys. In my experience, attorneys, more than other professionals, tend to get impatient and uncomfortable with the stories and emotions people have, step over important nonverbal communications, value details and facts over human experience, and have trouble sitting in a process when the outcome seems obvious. Many attorneys simply take the training, say, “This isn’t for me” and go back to their legal practice.

I’m not saying this is universal and I’m not saying that good attorneys can’t be good mediators. I am saying that mediation skills come from a different mindset, frame of reference, ethical code and theoretical background that must continue to be defined and distinguished rather than made a subset of the legal mind.

Best wishes,


David’s post will continue tomorrow responding further to Rawle’s points, discussing “the genius of mediation.”

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