Sunday, December 9

'Get a life' or 'Yeah, right on'

Great comment from my friend, Mr/Mrs/Ms Anonymous on my previous post about going along to a Christmas bash last week;

"Geoff, the real question here is whether you as mediator should be going to a repeat user's Christmas party at all..."

But I can't decide whether it is ridiculously politically correct or if there is an ethical point to be made here...

Although, I think John Lande of Missouri University would probably say there is - in Lawyers’ Routine Participation Directs Shape of Liti-Mediation he observes;

"... As lawyers become repeat-users of mediation services, mediators may well see the lawyers as the mediators' clients, rather than the principals, with whom the mediators are much less likely to have repeat business. This is especially likely where the lawyers, rather than the principals, shop for mediators.....

Continuing relationships between lawyers and mediators can result in mediator bias. When lawyers (or their major clients) in a two-party case are comparable in their status as repeat purchasers of mediation services, the mediator would presumably be equally dependent on both sides and generally would not have an incentive to favor one side over the other.

But when one side is a repeat buyer, such as an insurance company or a lawyer who uses mediation frequently, and the other side is not, the mediator could consciously or unconsciously be affected by this. Although mediators cannot make a formal decision favoring one side or another, mediators can help or interfere with the efforts of any side. Mediators can influence the outcome" [read more]


John W said...

I don't think the debates that typically get slapped with the label of "politically correct" are at all relevant here. Ok, that out of the way...

Forget actual bias for a moment (though I think that's a legitimate issue to raise), I think this certainly risks the appearance of bias. An old SPIDR (the now-folded-into-ACR Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution) had an ethics hypothetical case involving holiday gifts from mediation clients after a concluded case, and the usual consensus in the room was that accepting such gifts wasn't consistent with the need to strive to maintain both actual neutrality and clients' later perceptions of mediator neutrality.

Now, personally, I think the notion of strict mediator neutrality is far over-emphasized and a problematic goal, at best. But, as long as we've got it as a highly stressed professional ethic, count me in as thinking that attending such parties would raise ethical concerns.

- John from CResearch

Geoff said...

John, insightful but oh what a lonely profession if you are right! Am I running a business or have I taken vows?