Mediators are a less visible but essential part of the criminal justice system, working behind the scenes in out-of-court dispute resolution. In many ways, a mediator is like a less formal judge: mediators serve as an impartial party, overseeing private hearings outside of the court room. A mediator is in charge of managing dispute proceedings and keeping the discussion relevant and polite. While a mediator will often offer suggestions as to how to resolve the disagreement at hand, it is up to the two opposing sides to ultimately reach their own agreement.
If things in a debate turn nasty and a shouting match ensues, it's up to the mediator to calm everyone down and reestablish constructive discussion.
Mediator Job Description
Mediators spend most of their time meeting with clients to oversee disputes. Most mediators work out of private offices or, in some cases, travel to meet with clients at a chosen location. While a mediator often takes notes during a dispute settlement to keep track of each party's demands, these notes are kept private and confidential and no public record of them is kept.
Mediators may also oversee specific procedures like executive mini-trials, which can serve as a sort of pre-negotiation conducted in hopes of avoiding a formal trial.
The job of a mediator requires a cool head, good communication capabilities and excellent people skills. A good mediator also has an assertive personality which permits him or her to step in and regain control of the proceedings if discussions swerve off track. Education and training requirements for mediators vary from one state and court to another, but in most cases a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as criminal justice or counseling, is necessary. Many mediators also choose to complete advanced degrees in relevant fields like dispute resolution, conflict management, law or public policy. Regardless of degree, most mediators undergo on-the-job training before beginning to practice on their own.
Mediator Career Outlook
Mediating is a mentally and emotionally-demanding job and a good mediator is well-rewarded for this difficult work. In 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage of arbitrators, mediators and conciliators as a group to be $77,200, with the top ten percent of earners breaking into the six-figure salary range. Job prospects for mediators are expected to be excellent, with the BLS predicting faster-than-average growth in the job field over the coming decade.
Money is at the heart of mediators' excellent job prospects. Formal legal procedures are incredibly time-consuming and extremely expensive - and the longer a proceeding lasts, the more money clients have to pay out. For this reason, both corporate and private clients are increasingly choosing to turn to mediator services instead of going to trial. Mediators offer a cost-efficient alternative to official legal proceedings and can help warring parties resolve their dispute in a timely and effective manner.