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How to Choose The Right Mediator for Your Case


"Litigation is the basic legal right which guarantees every corporation its decade in court."  David Porter

Mediators come from many different backgrounds. Some are attorneys and some are not. Of the attorney-mediators, they also come from varied backgrounds and experiences in the practice of law.

Many of the cases going to mediation in Florida are civil cases which have been filed in the circuit courts, or are pre-suit mediation cases which are likely to soon be filed if the case is not resolved. When litigants are looking for a mediator for these type of cases, the background of the mediator is very important. Did the mediator have a long experience as a civil trial lawyer? If so, was he/she a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer who handled the kind of case for which you are seeking a mediator? Also, is he/she a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil mediator? If the case is in federal court, is the mediator certified to mediate federal cases? The answers to these questions are often difficult to find, particularly if you practice outside of the local jurisdiction and are not familiar with the local mediators, or if you are a local practitioner and would like to try someone new. There is an excellent way to search for the most qualified mediators to handle the particular case you have.

The National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals (NADN) is a professional association whose membership consists of attorneys distinguished by hands-on experience in the field of civil and commercial conflict resolution, and experienced in the practice of alternative dispute resolution. The NADN has 800 members nationally, and is the largest public roster of experienced ADR attorneys on the web. Membership is by invitation only and is limited to neutrals who have proven experience in resolution of commercial and civil disputes. All members have been recognized for their accomplishments through a peer-nomination and attorney client review process. Only Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil mediators qualify for membership in the Florida Chapter of NADN. See www.nadn.org. Perhaps more importantly to Florida attorneys is The Florida Circuit-Civil Mediators Society, which is the Florida Chapter of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. See www.floridamediators.org. The Florida Chapter consists of only 222 mediators statewide. For instance, in Gainesville there are 4 members, 5 in Ocala, 12 in Jacksonville, 16 in Orlando and 29 in Tampa. Your author was fortunate enough to have been selected into membership in the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals, Florida Chapter.

The Florida Circuit-Civil Mediators Society (FCCMS) website will be the most useful for Florida attorneys seeking a mediator, and is accessible at www.floridamediators.org. (Out of state mediators are searchable at www.nadn.org). From this website, mediators in your local area can be researched as to their background and availability through an online calendar. The online calendar is an excellent way for lawyers or their staff to select a mediator and a convenient date for the mediation. Frequently, all persons involved in setting the mediation will get on a conference call together and determine the mediator and most convenient date. While all parties are looking at the website simultaneously, a mediator and date can be selected and reserved at that time. Here’s how it works.

First, access The Florida Circuit-Civil Mediators Society home page at www.floridamediators.org. Along the top of the page is a button bar. Click on "Availability Search". This takes you to a page with a drop-down menu allowing you to select the circuit or county in which you are trying to locate a mediator, his/her case experience in a particular field and the type of ADR service that you require.

When searching for a mediator in a particular circuit or county, you will first see the list of judicial circuits. Each circuit will be listed twice. The first listing tells you all mediators who are willing to mediate a case in that circuit. The second listing will have the word "Local" behind it, indicating those mediators who reside in that particular circuit. If you scroll down further you will see a list of counties, and clicking on a county will produce a list of FCCMS mediators who are available in that county. After each mediator’s name will be a calendar for three months in advance, which will indicate if the mediator is available on the day you would like to schedule. Clicking on the name will take you to that mediator’s profile page, and will allow you to schedule a date.

The second drop-down menu allows you to choose the area of expertise which you require for your case. Once a selection has been made, only the mediators with experience in that particular area of law will be listed, showing their availability dates. The last drop-down menu allows you to choose the type of ADR service that you require. For instance, if you select arbitration, "Civil/Commercial", only members available to arbitrate that kind of case will be listed.

Your search can be narrowed even more by selecting "Advanced Search" on the button bar. When this is done, various fields may be used to select a mediator in a certain geographical area, who possesses specific ADR experience and qualifications. When selecting the location criteria, "Serving County", all FCCMS members who are willing to serve a particular county are listed. The list cannot be narrowed to those mediators who reside in that county. However, a list of members in a particular geographical area is available by clicking on the "View Complete FCCMS Member Roster Here" button, allowing you to select only mediators from the local area, if that is your goal.

In the event you would like to research the availability of a particular mediator, that is also possible on the site. Click on the "Advanced Search" button. In the first line of the information field, you can enter either the first or last name of the particular mediator. Do not type in both the first and last name, because nothing will come up on this screen. However, for example, if you search the name "Robert", nine mediators are listed. Or if you type in the name "Stripling", your author comes up as the only member-mediator in the entire state whose last name is "Stripling". Clicking on that name will take you to my profile, which allows you to go to the www.striplingmediation.com website, view available dates and find out other important information you would like to know about the mediator, including areas of experience and circuits being served. This is true of any of the other fields which list the name of a particular mediator, since clicking on the mediator’s name always takes you to his "Member Profile".

The website is very helpful and easy to navigate. Any questions about how to use the site can be answered by clicking on the "Contact Us" button, and calling or e-mailing staff at the Florida Circuit-Civil Mediators Society office.

Searching www.floridamediators.org is an excellent way to find qualified mediators in your area, who have the background, experience and qualifications that you need for your case. I would encourage you to use it as a tool to assist you in finding the right mediator for your case.