Not all mediators are created equal or trained in the same way. Each mediator will have their own particular style of mediation. You can pick a mediator from a roster list that might be available at your court house or do some research and hire a mediator privately. No matter what mediator you select you need to do your homework ahead of time and set your own expectations.
As much as you may be looking to your mediator to facilitate the process to resolve your dispute, it is important to set your own ground rules and determine what kind of settlement you would like to achieve. As we have set out in previous blogs, mediators have different styles and approaches. You will have to determine whether you want a mediator that will take an evaluative approach or a more facilitative approach or something in the middle.
As well, make sure that you understand how the mediation process will be conducted from the onset. Remember you are paying for the mediator to work with you and the other disputing party on your solution so you want to ensure that the process that they engage in also gets to the point and helps you move closer to dispute resolution. The mediator will describe their approach in the beginning and set the ground rules but you need to ensure that this time is used wisely. Make sure that the length of the opening dialogue does not get weighed down in too much process. If lawyers are to be present make sure you fully understand the extent of their involvement in the process. It is important that you convey these expectations to the mediator before the process and make sure they feel comfortable and address your goals for the mediation.
It is also up to you to clearly set out and articulate your issues. It is important that you come prepared for the mediation and that you have provided for the mediator all the necessary background information such as outlining the facts as you see them, providing any supporting materials or documents, providing any law that you have been made aware of (unless you are attending with counsel). Depending upon who you select as your mediator they may have a law background or not so you may have to outline the law for them.
Like anything in life, do your homework, ask lots of questions to ensure that you will feel comfortable with the mediator. Interview them first, find out their qualifications, background, education, affiliated organizations and approach. This is not an easy task given that you must select a mediator with a person you are in a dispute with. However, having a good framework as to what you both want is half the battle. Coming to an agreement as to the mediator gives both of you the best chance possible to resolve your dispute.