Friday, November 2

Boston Mediators Respond

In response to my post yesterday on Robert Benjamin's lightning rod article A Tribute and Lament on the Field of Mediation Dr Tammy Lenski says;

"I and other colleagues had dinner with Robert a few weeks ago when he came to be a guest speaker at Woodbury, where I teach mediation. Part of the conversation evolved into lamenting about the number of mediators we know who print brochures and try to get on panels as their primary (sometime only) practice-building efforts. There was also pondering about the apparent disconnect between mediation and entrepreneurial spirit.I suspect that's what Robert was writing about in the article.

I'll add in a piece I did on the subject a while back and which is discussed in my forthcoming book, Making Mediation Your Day Job - Stop Waiting, Start Building...

Tammy's 'piece' is much more than that and is well worth a look;

"Stop waiting for referrals from lawyers. Attorneys, in general, like to refer to other attorneys. Even if you’re an attorney, it’s going to take a very long time to build a full-time practice that way.
Stop putting most of your effort into applications to court rosters. You will not earn enough to make mediation your day job.
Stop banking on a living wage from state agency referrals and rosters. Even in states with healthy mediation programs associated with government agencies, there will not be enough work to pay you and all the other mediators clamoring for a piece of the pie.
Stop giving most of the time you have available to develop your practice to your community mediation center in the name of getting experience. Give them some of your time, and keep some of it for serious development of your practice.
Stop waiting for your national, regional and state associations to educate the public and create work for you. Most of our associations don’t have enough person-power or the fiscal resources to make this a reality anytime soon"

And over at Online Guide to Mediation, Diane Levin posts Time for a change: Is mediation ready for reform? and opines that;

"the problem lies not in a lack of innovation or entrepreneurship. But I do think that Benjamin is right that mediation's complicitness in the functioning of the institutional machinery yields the kind of failings that Dean Alfini points to ..." [read more]


Chris Annunziata said...

Very interesting stuff from Dr. Lenski, but I think it illustrates a difference of opinion/practice between attorney-mediators and lay-mediators. I am just starting out, so I don't have personal examples to draw from, but the few local mediators I look to for advice have done ALL the things that Dr. Lenski says to avoid and have developed very successful practices. They market to attorneys and await referrals. They got on the court rosters. They took referrals from state agencies and Small Claims courts.

Yes, developing a practice requires active marketing, but I would not discount these methods if you are an attorney-mediator. Recall who your client is. No, it is NOT "the deal". Your clients are the LAWYERS. And lawyers WILL seek referrals from other lawyers. They WILL want to know whether you are on the approved court roster. They WILL send you more work if you do a bang-up job for them in Landlord/Tenant Court or Magistrate Court. A lot of small firms take in whatever walks in the door and if you helped them get rid of that $10,000 PI case they might remember you when that $1million wrongful death "walks in the door."

Vickie Pynchon said...

I think Robert is concerned about the professionalization of mediation -- the potential that licensing agencies will come to control it and lawyers to dominate it.

I know mediators HATE to have mediation compared to personal therapy because that dichotomizes the two purported "sides" of legal practice -- those who would WIN -- the tough guys -- and those who would COMPROMISE -- the sissies.

But think about good old Sigmund and the revolution in human consciousness he inspired.

His "practice" has been deconstructed, reconstructed, villified, reified and deified.

And yet what has flowed from it has been a remarkably durable and diverse profession in which each therapist is, as each mediator is, his or her own "technique."

I have yards and yards more to say about this, including the 'fact' -- lifted from contemporary psychoanalysis -- that you've got to work in the client's "zone of proximal development" to help them move from one set of understandings to another. This is how children develop, in baby steps, crawl to walk to run to sprint. Each of us is working in our own world and reaching inside of our clients' zones of proximal development to help bring them into a world that is more collaborative and reciprocal than competitive and adversarial. It is small work. Work in the margins. No one can destroy it.

I'll leave Paul Simon as the last word (with liberties taken):

we've been "Norman Mailered, Maxwell Taylored/John O'Hara'd, McNamara'd/Rolling Stoned and Beatled till we're blind/we've been Ayn Randed, nearly branded/
Communist, 'cause we're left-handed/That's the hand we use, well, never mind!/ been Phil Spectored, resurrected/Lou Adlered, Barry Sadlered/Well, we paid all the dues we want to pay/And we learned the truth from Lenny Bruce/And all our wealth won't buy us health/
So we smoke a pint of tea a day."

(everything right on but the "tea" which is not your grandfather's "tea" anymore)

vickie pynchon said...

I also agree with Chris about marketing except to add that we have to know when it's time to leave the pro bono panel's training wheels behind. My sign was that I was become irritable with the attorneys because I wasn't being paid. So I left and put my marketing energy into other things -- giving seminars, writing more, joining bar sections, taking people to lunch, etc. And I also began doing community mediation which is TRUE pro bono work rather than "pro bono" as marketing. Baby step by baby step and one day you're running.