Interview of Mark Lemke, SCMA President and MC3 Certified Mediator

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Mark Lemke, President of Southern California Mediation Association

Mark Lemke, President of Southern California Mediation Association

How do you think the MC3 mediator certification initiative aligns with the goals of the Southern California Mediation Association?

SCMA’s mission is to nurture, expand and develop the practice, profession and community of mediation. MC3’s goal of professionalizing mediation aligns perfectly with our mission at SCMA.  Additionally, while many of our members are attorneys, about half our members are professionals with experience in a variety of other fields. Mediation certification recognizes that the true test of a mediator isn’t any particular degree, but rather a combination of the highest levels of training, standards, and experience. Certification gives all mediators instant credibility, instant authority, and helps level the playing field.  And that’s where I think that our partnership really is a win-win for both organizations.

MC3 has a goal of professionalizing the field and establishing a standard of best practices for mediators.  I’m interested as to whether you have any thoughts about what might enable MC3 to continue to grow its membership and establish this standard throughout the mediation community.

As more mediators realize the tremendous value of certification, more will seek it out, and more will understand that MC3 offers the gold standard in mediator certification.

I’ve been surprised to see how many organizations, how many websites, how many educational institutions issue either certificates or have certificate programs.  So many of them simply take the word (and the financial contributions) of their applicants and do very little, if any, investigation into the qualifications and abilities of the mediator.

What MC3 offers is substantively and qualitatively very different than what those other organizations do.  It is, without question, a higher standard.  MC3’s rigorous investigation into the training, education, and experience of applicants is what ensures the authority of MC3 certification. After having reviewed the backgrounds of applicants, those who qualify as Certified Mediators can be legitimately entrusted with the MC3 certification brand.

There are two additional things that MC3 is doing that will further increase demand for certification. The first is seeking partnerships with select panels. Panels that recognize, prefer, and publicize MC3-certification will build awareness of MC3 certification and will encourage greater demand for MC3-certified mediators among the public, and other panels.  Second, MC3 is doing a fantastic job of establishing and educating the public directly about the value of certification.

On its website, MC3, has a directory of all of the MC3-Certified Mediators and I am proud to be listed among them.  The directory allows attorneys or disputants to search for a Certified Mediator by geographic areas or mediator’s field of expertise.

My expectation is that, as more people in our community – mediators, disputants, attorneys, panels – begin to understand the value of certification and the gold standard that MC3 offers, more and more mediators will seek out MC3 certification. 

Some SCMA members may not be aware of the degree to which the SCMA has, over the past several years, provided continuous, and very generous, financial support to MC3. Are there other benefits of certification to be realized by SCMA members that you haven’t already addressed?

SCMA remains a steadfast supporter of MC3. I am also proud to be a personal financial supporter of MC3 at the Founder Level.  I strongly believe in the goals of MC3.  And, in addition to securing my MC3 Certification, I’m also putting my money where my mouth is, and I’m very glad to do so.

SCMA’s MC3 members, of course, receive innate rewards that come from certification, including the recognition and the esteem that is conferred upon meeting this Gold Standard.  I also believe that SCMA members benefit by the tremendous educational mission that MC3 has taken on in informing the public about our profession, and helping to further establish the value of the work we do, as skilled professionals, in the eyes of the general public.

Several years ago, I remember you and I having a conversation about MC3 where you expressed uncertainty and, perhaps, a bit of skepticism about the role that mediator certification might play within the broader landscape of the mediation community.  You have come to be a strong supporter of MC3.   Could you discuss how your perspective has changed?

It’s a great question and one that many people may be asking themselves in deciding whether to seek their MC3 certification.  For me, I listened to and considered the thoughts of a lot of leaders and titans within our mediation community. What I heard, almost universally, was that MC3 has an important mission. And that MC3 is looking to accomplish something unprecedented in establishing mediation as a recognized profession.

The more that I thought about it, it became something that I wanted to be a part of, and wanted to associate myself with.  I wanted to have my name included in the MC3 Directory of Certified Mediators. And I now view my Certification as a point of pride.  I’m very proud to be a part of this select group of people who have been recognized by MC3 as practicing this work at the highest levels of our profession and having the highest standards of education and integrity. I was pleased to be able to recently renew my status as an MC3-Certified Mediator and I look forward to many such renewals in the future.

Lastly, please share some thoughts about the SCMA initiatives/ accomplishments from your tenure as president, and during this past very challenging pandemic year, that you are most proud of.

You’re right in that this has been a challenging year for SCMA, yet it’s also been a year that’s been filled with opportunity.  When we find ourselves looking back at this year, I hope that we’ll be able to say that we have not only maintained but grown our membership, by constantly bringing new mediators to the profession and to our organization.

We have expanded our events.  We offered our first online Annual Conference.  We put on a very successful Family Mediation Institute.  We are in the process of planning a revived Employment Mediation Institute.  And we’ve already begun planning for this year’s Annual Conference on November 13.  This year we expect to offer at least four events spotlighting MC3 and its leadership.

One of the several things that I wanted to happen during my tenure as President is that I’ve been committed to SCMA offering at least one, if not two and sometimes more, events each and every month. We are also offering what I believe is the greatest number of professional development groups (PDG’s) we’ve ever offered in our history.  We now have a total of seven and we have expanded ourselves from our tradition of geographically-based PDG’s to now having field-specific PDG’s such as our Family Law Study Group and Making Money as a Mediator.

To the extent that we have moved online, it has made it a little easier for us to offer this greater number of events. But I want to make sure that our members really feel engaged, that our members have as many opportunities to see the value of their SCMA membership in the online era.   And newer members should stay tuned for information on the re-launching of our Mentorship Program.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that I work with a phenomenal team in Director Bouvier Eulen and our Events co-chairs Jennifer Johnston Terando and Incoming President Richard Erhard.  We have an active, committed Board of Directors and I often feel very humbled by the fantastic people that I’ve been able to work with this past year, including many people who are MC3 Certified.

Finally, when I take a moment to consider my tenure as the President of SCMA, I’m particularly proud to be the first openly LGBTQ+ President of this organization and, to my knowledge, the first Hispanic President of SCMA.  It’s a historic year for our organization, a year of continuing progress and accomplishment, and I’m very proud to be a part of that history.

Thank you, Mark.  We appreciate the thoughts you shared with us today and, of course, greatly appreciate SCMA’s, and your personal, support for MC3.

 

Why MC3 Will Make a Difference - Dr. Jack Goetz, Esq. Interview Continues

Posted on June 29

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Q: MC3 launched in late 2019.  After 18 months and this past difficult year, how would you characterize where the organization stands?

Dr. Jack Goetz, Esq.

MC3 has just “scratched the surface” but it is well beyond expectations after its first 18 months.  Almost three dozen mediators in four different states have voluntarily agreed to hold themselves to the highest standards and have become the initial proponents for mediation as a profession.  While we are not a “panel,” it is fair to say that 32 mediators from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences agreeing to the principle of professionalization and putting themselves forward as models for our field is a significant amount of mediators relative to other mediation panels and groups.  When we look back on this, 100 years from now, these initial adopters will have had a substantial influence in our mediation community.  As SCMA President Mark Lemke, a MC3-Certified Mediator notes, “My expectation is that, as more people in our community – mediators, disputants, attorneys, panels – begin to understand the value of certification and the certification standard that MC3 offers, more and more mediators will be seeking out their MC3 certification.”

MC3 has three groups of potential consumers: mediation panels, mediators themselves, and the public (future disputants).  We will not have a noteworthy impact on future disputants until we have greater exposure within existing mediation panels and greater adoption by independent mediators.  It is fair to say that MC3 will continue its efforts to increase its traction with both the panels and the mediators during its initial launch period over the next three to five years.  In 2020, MC3 signed alliance agreements with the Virginia Mediation Network and Mediate.com.  We believe that 2021 will end with more organizational alliances and more MC3-Certified Mediators as we continue to try to grow the profession of mediation.

So You Want to Be a Mediator, Now What?

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Jason Harper, MC3 Vice president On April 24th, MC3 Vice President Jason Harper participated in a panel discussion entitled: “So You Want to Be a Mediator, Now What?” This program was focused on helping new mediators develop their career path in the alternate dispute resolution field. Jason used what he called the “Road Map Approach,” a process where you determine the path that will take you where you want to go and then take a methodical approach along that path.

Years ago, Jason volunteered to work in a Peer Mediation setting with K-12-aged students, as he helped to create and brand a non-profit organization, “Kids Managing Conflict”.  After his first training with KMC, he realized that this was his calling. And he further suggested to the attendees of the SCMA panel that volunteering early in your career was invaluable, particularly in terms of the opportunity it provides for learning about oneself.

Jason spoke about some additional steps that all aspiring mediators should consider, including:

  • Education: Jason earned a Masters in Dispute Resolution from Cal State Dominguez Hills; If you truly believe that work in mediation is for you, you owe it to yourself to learn all that you can about the field;
  • Volunteering: There are numerous opportunities for new/aspiring mediators to volunteer.
  • Every opportunity for work: Wherever it may take place, and certainly in a volunteer setting, allows new mediators to improve their abilities, add to the breadth and depth of their experience and build their confidence; and
  • Joining professional associations: Meeting others who do this work allows new mediators to learn, to ask questions, to understand opportunities and to be better able to chart their career path.

Participating with various professional mediation associations enables people to build their own mediation community.  It provides an opportunity for mediators to discover and introduce themselves to others with similar interests. Jason also shared an observation that mediation can be a lonely profession, particularly when one is beginning their mediation career, so professional development groups can be a really helpful space.

Informal meetings or strategy groups where you can be with other professionals, either in person, or virtually on Zoom, allows for new mediators to exchange ideas and discuss how to implement new skills and techniques; Professional associations encourage attendance at annual conferences and an ability to expand your mind while you learn new skills. They can also provide you with the tools you will need to manage your own business, to develop necessary entrepreneurial skills such as website development, and also give you some knowledge about how to market your business and learn about online dispute resolution (ODR), something that will likely be a part of mediation practices well into our futures.

In general, Jason spoke about the importance of attaching your professional aspirations to something larger than yourself.  In Los Angeles, he recommends Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA). SCMA was an organization that Jason joined when he was entering the field.  He volunteered within SCMA where he could, found it enormously valuable and, eventually, his association with SCMA led to his serving as the President in 2017.

Additionally, Jason added that, by becoming a MC3-Certified Mediator, aspiring mediators will be helping to take their mediation practice to the next level.  Jason was one of the founders of MC3, a growing initiative, with Certified Mediators now in 4 different States, designed to assist in professionalizing and elevating the field.  Since its launch in late 2019, MC3 has worked to establish a ‘gold standard’ for mediation practice.  As greater numbers of mediators receive their MC3 certification, it will follow that the respect for our work performed at the highest level will only continue to gain wider acceptance and adoption.

So You Want To Be A Mediator, Now What?

"It Doesn’t Mean Anything…"

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CAMS

“It Doesn’t Mean Anything…”

By: Don Cripe, MC3 Certified Mediator & ADR professional

When we are considering engaging a professional, whether it is a physician, accountant, plumber, electrician, or anyone we hope has a well-developed skill in the needed occupation, my supposition is that most of us are very concerned with that professional’s credentials. Professionals who not only wish to be more attractive to potential clientele or customers but want to enhance their knowledge base and skills often pursue credentialling through professional organizations. My friend, from whom the title quote comes claims instead of working to be included in the professional organizations, many of which allow admitted members to indicate such by adding initials after their names on business literature, might as well just state on a business card, “I Like Myself.”

That puzzles me.

Historically through the early 20th century, anyone who graduated medical school and, eventually, became licensed, could practice any specialty he chose. Anyone who has a modicum of knowledge about the history of healthcare understands how well that system worked. For example, up until 1913, a physician who wanted to be a surgeon and in most communities had the basic medical knowledge to allow the practice declared himself to be a surgeon (I am using the masculine since until the 20th century female physician were vanishingly rare). The public accepted those claims. In 1913 the American College of Surgeons was formed with the intention to have a better-trained and qualified cohort from which patients could choose. At the time,  the letters after one’s name on a business card (i.e. F.A.C.S.-Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) didn’t mean anything to the general public or, for that matter, to the medical profession as a whole. The organization persevered to the point that Medical Schools demanded their medical professors be “Board Certified” before they could teach.

Of course, it begs the question whether Board Certified doctors of any specialty are necessarily better doctors than those who choose not to undergo the additional training and vetting processes of the medical board (colleges). The answer is simple: “Of Course Not!” I believe many of us have known professionals who were outstanding students but became terrible practitioners in any profession. The point is, the meaningless alphabet soup attached to the name, i.e., of Bill Bailey, M.D., soon became meaningful to other physicians and potential patients, not only because it encouraged referrals from other specialties and generalists, but it eventually gave the lay public something upon which they could rely for well-vetted assurances of the doctor’s background when searching for a treater.

My current profession is as an ADR professional, primarily an Arbitrator and Mediator. I have been mediating for over 25 years and almost as long as an arbitrator. I am somewhat active among those professionals so have a pretty good understanding of their concerns. Currently, for the most part at least in California, anyone with a mind to do so can hang a shingle and advertise as being a mediator, irrespective of background and training. For decades, professionals such as myself, have agonized over this issue. Just as well-qualified lawyers chafed at the presence of folks without legal training or experience advertised being “Lawyers” before Bar Associations were formed and licensing began, mediators who have expended the time, resources, and energy to obtain the best possible training and experience, see the danger underqualified individuals within the avocation present to the public and the profession we love.

A few decades back, some of my senior colleagues took a look at the situation because they were perplexed about the ability of untrained individuals to jump into this field without credentials. It is true that journeyman lawyers and retired judges seem attracted to this field, but even after a career as an outstanding advocate or jurist, many of them struggle with mediation (at least in the preferred models) because the skill sets acquired in those professions are not universally suited to the type of dispute resolution provided through mediation. The group of old-time mediators wanted to create a framework for mediators, similar to Board Certification of physicians, to announce to colleagues and the world that a mediator had passed through a rigorous review of her education, training, and experience and, thus, were admitted into the special “club” of preferred professionals. It took a long time and a few false starts. Many people practicing as mediators seemed to have the belief that being accepted into that club (i.e., “certified”) has little meaning.

Within the wide community of practicing mediators in California, stories were being shared about mediators incurring situations for which they had few effective tools or, on rare occasion, really making a mess of settlement negotiations. The idea of creating an organization (now extending beyond California) took root in the last decades of the 20th century and sprouts began to appear in the early 21st. Finally, in the past couple of years the idea has taken shape in the form of the Mediator Certification Consortium of California (MC3). Yes, still to some, being MC3 certified means little. (I admit I have made some really boneheaded mistakes as a mediator)

To become certified by MC3, the applicant must submit a complicated application and prove she is qualified through substantial training and show enough mediation experience to have a solid foundation in the field. The applicant must also pass a written examination. After the paperwork is done, a committee within the organization reviews, discusses and votes upon each application. As a part of the process, MC3 certified mediators must agree to participate in the organization’s grievance process, through which a party who believes was disserved by a mediator can complain and have the complaint heard by the organization. If found deficient, the accused mediator may have to satisfy specified remedial processes. Thus, a mediation consumer can be assured when she engages an MC3 Certified mediator, that mediator has been well-vetted by an experienced committee of peers and, if the consumer feels damaged by the conduct of the mediator, may have some recourse.

As of this writing being an MC3 mediator “doesn’t mean anything” to many except to those who are looking for the best qualified mediator for their cases without relying upon the old, unreliable, terms “Hon.” and “Ret.” on a business card or resume’

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.

An Interview with Dr. Jack Goetz, Esq.

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Our first post is actually the beginning of an interview we’re having with MC3 President and Founder Jack Goetz.  Jack has devoted so much time and thought to the idea of mediator certification and the need to professionalize the work we do, he could probably write a book on the subject.

Q: Can you speak about the general state of the mediation field that led to a need for a certification program such as MC3?

Dr. Jack Goetz, Esq. If you feel sick, you call the doctor’s office.  If your taxes are too complex, you call an accountant. If you want to file a lawsuit, you contact a lawyer.  If you have a dispute and you just want to talk or work it out with the other disputant, you call a mediator—NOT.  Outside of a few select areas of mediation, such as family law, there is little contact between members of the public with and a mediator.  We have myriads of disputes in our community that could be resolved, and we have troves of trained mediators leaving the field every year because of lack of work.  Social good can be accomplished if we can connect underworked mediators with disputes that can be resolved without litigation.

MC3’s mission as a nonprofit organization pushes it to accomplish this social good.  Members of the public generally do not contact mediators directly because what mediators do and how they are qualified to do so are not well known .

Professionals who are contacted directly by members of the public are part of formalized professions that have a number of characteristics which typically include 1) a binding ethics code, 2) quality assurance and self-governance, 3) a specialized education, 4) background checks, and 5) continuing education that keeps the practitioner current in the field.  MC3 requires its MC3-Certified Mediators to qualify on all 5 characteristics, but because it is a field that encourages the values that practitioners from all walks of life bring, does not require a specific degree but does raise the level of mediator education.  As a result, currently 84% of MC3-Certified Mediators have either a juris doctorate degree or a post-graduate degree in conflict resolution, or both!

MC3 is not just another education certification that an organization gives to a mediator who completes the education they offer.  In fact, MC3 has anchored itself in principle to the 2012 ABA task force report that set forth some standards for mediator certification organizations, including that such an organization could not certify based upon its own brand of education.  Instead, MC3 qualifies mediator education and training against a known set of standards that reflect the values of the mediation field.

MC3 is not just another marketing certification that mediators obtain.  While MC3-Certified Mediators may use the MC3 mark to distinguish themselves in the community, the heart of MC3 is adherence to a binding ethics code  and the resultant quality assurance to the public.  MC3-Certified Mediators thus enjoy the marketing benefits offered by other certifications but at the same time, can hold themselves out to the highest standard in the community.

MC3 is the gold standard for mediator certification, and the one that holds best hope to be putting mediators on “speed dial” for members of the public.  MC3, by not just branding its own form of education/training, but instead qualifying educational programs of others, is the organization that brings the best hope to creating uniformity in public understanding about mediation.  Tired of being qualified as a mediator in one city by a panel and finding you can drive 50 miles and not be qualified by panels in that area?  As long as that lack of uniformity exists, mediation will never reach its ultimate potential to resolve disputes in all of our communities.