William Aylmer – On establishing himself as a Mediator

11 Jul 2011

CEDR Solve Irish Panel Forum
Matheson Ormsby Prentice, Thursday 7 July 2011


As individual professional service providers, we are responsible for our own marketing, from generating leads through to ensuring good mediation outcomes for our clients. As individuals offering a professional service, every professional interaction we have may therefore be approached with a view to marketing ourselves as mediators.

As a solicitor, it may take a number of retainers over time to develop a solicitor/client relationship in which the client sees the solicitor as a trusted adviser. A mediator must work to achieve “trusted mediator” status from the first contact with the parties or their advisers, sometimes even before an appointment is confirmed.

This leads me to my first point.

The Importance of Trust

When marketing myself as a mediator, I try to remember what I look for when advising my own clients on mediator appointments. Trust is an essential ingredient for me. I’m looking for someone to provide a professional service at a very high level. I need to believe this is a mediator I would probably recommend for appointment again, even before I know their abilities as a mediator.

Their professional track record before they were accredited as a mediator is therefore very important. I need them to have demonstrated, not merely asserted that they have something to offer as a mediator and that they are someone in whom I can place absolute trust. Initial work to market yourself as a mediator where relationships of trust have already been established may therefore produce the best results.

That takes me to my next point.

Investing in One’s Self

While a person’s experience and expertise as a mediator is of secondary importance to trust, past experience is clearly important and a person’s mediation CV will reflect this. The opportunity to assist with experienced mediators when I was accredited was critically important for my initial development as a mediator. It showed me what can be achieved in the process and gave me a belief in my own ability. I cannot overstate the value of assistantships at or shortly after accreditation. It is an investment of time and money that has been more than justified for me.

So, let me talk about…

The Sales and Marketing Challenge

For me, trying to build a practice as a mediator is not so much a selling exercise or trying to push what I’ve got; it’s about getting hired or trying to work out how to convince contacts and/or their clients to put their trust in me. So when I encounter an opportunity to get hired, I do the following:

  • I try to show the contact from the outset what it feels like to be in the relationship with me as mediator. I need to show them quickly how the risks of hiring me will be minimised.
  • I try to identify the contact’s interests, not only in appointing me but in achieving a resolution through the mediation process.
  • I try to think beyond the appointment opportunity at hand and look to building a long term relationship in which this contact is going to consider me first when next appointing a mediator.

As a practising solicitor, I consider myself as well, if not better placed than mediators from other professional backgrounds to generate leads for appointment. Being a practising solicitor is certainly not a disadvantage in my experience.

It may sound obvious but once accredited and offering yourself as a mediator, you must let colleagues and contacts know, firstly that you are accredited and second that you are available for and requesting appointments. Appointments won’t come just because you are accredited.

Everyone will have a different way of communicating these messages but the following can’t be overlooked:-

  • Telling people at meetings and networking events;
  • Direct personal e-mail, letter, marketing literature;
  • Website;
  • Writing & publication on the subject;
  • Speaking engagements, seminars;
  • Presence on social media – Linked in; Twitter etc.
  • Membership of groups, associations, mediator panels etc.
  • Professional directories;
  • Recommendations;
  • Media interviews;

The key point is to be proactive in communicating your service offering. Don’t assume that your colleagues know what you do.

An important consideration that I would like to talk about now is…

Converting Nominations into Appointments

You can’t expect to be appointed on every occasion you are nominated but being considered for appointment in itself represents the high degree of trust and confidence in which you are held by at least one of the parties in a dispute. Being nominated is certainly an important step and creates a valuable opportunity, but there may be other actions you can take to increase your prospects for appointment.

  1. There will usually be a request from one party or its adviser for confirmation that one is available and has no objection to being nominated. It is important to be open, available and responsive to any such requests.
  2. Use this golden opportunity to enquire as to who the parties are so that any potential conflict of interest can be identified or excluded.
  3. Ask what the nature of the dispute is and perhaps to outline similar disputes in which one has acted, as mediator or otherwise. (By showing keen interest in the nomination and potential for appointment, one can start to demonstrate one’s attributes as a mediator and give the contact a chance to see how the relationship might feel with you as the mediator.)
  4. Use this opportunity to say something about your mediation style, to describe the process for those who may not be familiar with it, to offer your mediation CV, your proposed terms for a mediation agreement and how you propose to charge.

All of these actions will serve to help the contact prefer you over other nominees and be more inclined to push you for the appointment.

Lastly, I would like to mention a key element in establishing yourself as a mediator.

Good Mediation Outcomes

Of course, not every mediation will conclude with resolution but any that don’t must not fail as a consequence of any act or omission on the mediator’s part. The mediation outcome will have been a good one if:-

  • The parties and their advisers do not regret referring their dispute to mediation;
  • The parties believe we have done a great job and would use us again or recommend us;
  • The parties’ advisers would use us again or recommend us;
  • The parties make significant progress towards resolution;
  • The parties resolve their dispute;
  • The parties and their advisers are not quite sure if or how we assisted them in achieving resolution but know that it would not have been achieved without us;
  • We have learned how to be a better mediator;

Final Thought

Don’t be backward in coming forward. Tell everyone you’re a mediator and look for appointments. Promote the concept and practice of mediation at every opportunity. Work to increase the size of the mediation cake. Help clients avoid the stress, expense and potential futility of protracted commercial litigation.

Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts and please don’t hesitate to ask if you would like a copy of my note or if you think I can help you in any other way to develop your practice.

William Aylmer,
7 July 2011
DDI: +353 1 234 2495
M: +353 86 28 000 45
30 Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin 2, Ireland.
T: +353 1 234 2495 | F: +353 1 234 2587 | DX: 109 034 Fitzwilliam
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