So now the Draft Policy is officially out in the open, what do we all think?
Colorado is a state where you do not even have to have a law degree to be a judge in some of the smaller rural counties. However, to sit as a judge or magistrate in most counties, you need a law degree and at least five years of experience in legal practice. I think some similar qualification plus experience standard is appropriate for mediators, especially ones that the public are required to work with under court order.
Many people have taken a 40-hour mediation class, perhaps too many people. I think that just having taken the training is far too low of a basic standard for Court ordered mediation. Five years of mediation experience might be too high of a bar, but at least one hundred hours of actual mediation experience makes sense to me. The value of having a body such as the Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) is that they could always authorize Court ordered mediation by less experienced people in rural areas that lacked experienced mediators. If the judges in those areas can function without law a degree, then perhaps mediation by someone is better than no mediation at all. I get that, but I don't get a low standard statewide.
For that reason, I support the position taken by the Mediation Association of Colorado (MAC) which you will find here. Surprise surprise, I am a member of the MAC.
I am still a relatively new mediator, and I can speak from recent personal experience, that things did not begin to click for me until after about eighty-hours of mediation practice. I have now spent over seven hundred hours in mediation sessions, and I am still learning every day.
For me, almost all of my initial hours were spent in co-mediation, so that I had a more experienced person to talk things over with after the mediation ended. The co-mediation experience offered by Jefferson County Mediation Services, and Court Mediation Services in Denver has been invaluable to me and to many other new mediators growing their skills.
The problem with co-mediation is that it is tough to offer this commercially, because clients don’t want to pay for two mediators at once. This is what makes Colorado’s pro-bono and lo-bono mediation programs so valuable. If the Supreme Court were to require some initial and periodic co-mediation experience, that could cement a place for such mediation programs in our culture. To my mind, that would be a good thing. I also think that mediators should commit to do some level of pro-bono activity in return for the Supreme Court nurturing the mediation profession.