Florida, like most states with meaningful mediator certification standards, imposes an apprenticeship requirement. The details have changed over the years, but fundamentally, before obtaining your mediator certification, you must shadow experienced mediators on a minimum number of cases. Like many aspiring mediators who had attended hundreds if not thousands of mediations as counsel for one of the parties, I grossly underestimated the value of this mentorship program. I had the good fortune of studying under the tutelage of Peter Grilli, Jim Betts and Bobby Santos, excellent mediators all. I am, of course, forever grateful and indebted to them for helping me not just with meeting the certification requirements but also with them sparking a lifelong interest in learning more about the art and science of mediation.
The first major eye-opener was an unexpected epiphany. I was surprised to realize, though I should not have been, that you see everything differently when you sit in the middle of the table. You view the parties, the lawyers, the facts, the legal issues and the settlement possibilities as one can only view them when you are charged with facilitating resolution and bringing about peace – peace for parties who frequently have been figuratively at war for years.
Before my first mediation observations, I had figured that I would be particularly objective since I had practiced on both sides of the bar in very diverse practice areas. I was remarkably naïve. Objectivity comes not from experience as a lawyer.
Objectivity as a mediator comes from the role, or in the case of Peter, Jim, Bobby and me, our calling as mediators. When you act as mediator, you accept a mission to do everything in your power to resolve the matter as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rooting for one side or the other does not occur to you because you are rooting simultaneously for both sides – to settle their case!
Any lawyer who wonders what really goes on in the mind of the mediator should undertake mediation training and mentorship. About five minutes into your first observation, you will come to anew and vastly improved understanding of what it means to be the proverbial man or woman in the middle. Whether you have more experience on the plaintiff or defense side matters not. The view from the middle focuses squarely on the mission at hand.
As I invariably note within the first few minutes at my mediations, “our mission is to get to the printer.”
As the Man in the Middle, I mean it.
– Rob Daisley