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.