“This Really Is a Big Deal”
By: Don Cripe, MC3 Certified Mediator & ADR professional
Several months ago, I wrote an article regarding the mediator certifying organization in California, MC3 Mediator Certification, Inc. (MC3). Within that article, I discussed the doubt expressed by some about the importance of such an organization. To reiterate, MC3, with which I have been affiliated since its conception, was organized not only to certify the credentials of California mediators, but to provide a vetting service for mediation consumers whether the general public or the legal profession. MC3 requires all mediators seeking MC3 certification to conquer a rigorous crucible verifying mediation training, experience, ethics, and general reputation before being granted a certificate.
One of the concerns I have always expressed about mediation practitioners has been though mediation has been a “thing” since the dawn of civilization in some form or another, when coupled with court-connected cases, mediation has been bootstrapped into the litigation process. Such a process can be remarkably effective by engaging experienced lawyers and judges as mediators. As helpful as that process was, because those volunteers were not trained in the important nuances of the mediation process, many settlement opportunities were missed. Basically, my concern was that “anyone can hang a shingle” claiming to be a mediator with or without training.
Moreover, in the earlier days of mediation as a court-connected process, participating lawyers often were disenchanted by the traditional settlement conference approach of most lawyer/judge mediators. As long-time litigators will recall, settlement conferences often began with the settlement officer asking the defense something like, “So, whatcha got to settle this?” If a party to litigation was anxious to settle and came to the settlement conference prepared to compromise to get the case settled, this process (particularly in court settlement conferences) was sometimes successful. That success often came at a price. Most seasoned litigators can tell stories of difficult settlement conferences in which the settlement officer “strong armed” a party or simply intimidated a party into settlement. Such a process is simply not mediation. No wonder many practitioners still confuse mediation with a settlement conference.
This is why using a certified mediator is so important. MC3-Certified mediators are necessarily trained to avoid the settlement conference approach, while being able to adapt the process to meet the needs of the case and are trained to be more subtle and persuasive without being intimidating.
MC3 certified mediators expressly agree to participate in the MC3 grievance process if a mediation participant has an issue with a mediator. As such, MC3 has built in many protections for mediation consumers in an effort to ensure the quality of the process.
Recently, one of the largest international ADR providers, the American Arbitration Association, has locked arms with MC3 thus recognizing the importance of the MC3 qualification process. The AAA Mediation.org recognizes MC3 vetted panel applicants as being a step ahead in qualification as opposed to applicants who are not. As such, despite the attitude of one of my colleagues around the time of my previous article that MC3 certification, “Doesn’t mean anything,” AAA Mediation.org’s recognition and affiliation with MC3 clearly indicates that an MC3 certification means a lot to the legal community.
Don Cripe is a retired civil litigator, current Arbitrator and MC3 Certified Mediator with over 25 years’ mediation experience. Don teaches mediation in law school and is a co-founder of California Arbitration & Mediation Services.
 This article does not purport to represent any of the AAA Mediation.org policies and procedures. Only the importance of the recognition by AAA Mediation.org of the professional credibility and importance of MC3.