Using Real Practice Systems Resources in Practice

This post describes how mediators can use ideas and materials from the Real Practice Systems Project to better understand and improve their own mediation systems.  Mediators’ practice systems are the combination of factors affecting what they do before, during, and after mediation sessions.  These systems include their routine procedures and strategies for dealing with recurring challenging situations.  Trainers and mediation program administrators can use this to help mediators in their programs.

Some mediation programs and practice groups hold regular educational programs, and you might devote one to having mediators discuss their approaches.  Or you might sponsor a special program to address these issues.  Before these programs, mediators might write descriptions of their approaches using the categories listed below and then during the programs discuss what they learned in the process.

I suggest that mediators first complete each section below with bullet points summarizing their ideas, going through the entire assignment.  After that, they might go back and flesh out their discussions, writing full paragraphs.

I suggest starting with bullet points so that people don’t get bogged down in the beginning and run out of steam before they get to the end.  I suggest later writing full paragraphs because this can stimulate insights that people wouldn’t get simply by writing bullet point summaries.  In some situations, mediators may not have the time or interest to write more than lists of bullet points.  In any case, the length of responses will vary in different sections.

Before writing descriptions of their systems, mediators may want to read the examples in this post to get some ideas the kind of things they might include in their own descriptions.

Experienced mediators should use this as an opportunity to think carefully about things they generally are unconscious about and take for granted in their mediations.

Trainers might ask trainees to sketch out answers at the beginning of the training program and see what changes they might make at the end of the training.

My Contributions to My Mediations

  • My Background, Training, and Experience (including but not limited to mediation)
  • My Core Values and Goals in Mediation for Parties (e.g., satisfaction, resolution, fairness, efficiency, good decision-making, reconciliation)
  • My Goals in Mediation for Myself (e.g., helping others, appreciation, pride, reputation, earn a good living, referrals)

Participants, Cases, and Contexts in My Mediations

  • Types of Cases and Participants in My Mediations (e.g., noting whether lawyers or others periodically or regularly participate)
  • Common Patterns of Conflict Before and During My Mediations (e.g., if parties had a relationship, prior efforts to negotiate, barriers to agreement)
  • Common Patterns of Parties’ Goals, Interests, and Positions in My Mediations
  • Factors in the Mediation Market, Practice Culture, Organizational Policies and/or Legal or Ethical Standards Affecting My Mediations

My Mediation System Design

  • Preparation in My Mediations
  • My Routine Mediation Session Procedures
  • Challenging Situations in My Mediations and How I Handle Them


  • Evolution of My Approach (noting things that have significantly affected your thinking such as experiences, trainings, publications)
  • What Writing This Document Made Me Conscious Of
  • Things I Want to Improve in My Mediations

This post is related to my article in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Real Mediation Systems to Help Parties and Mediators Achieve Their Goals.

This post collects all the posts in this series.

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