Public Interest Law Careers Guide - mediation

Field of Law

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Stage of Career

Undergraduates; Practising Lawyers

By David Leonard, Policy & Project Officer, Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria

How does one become a mediator?

There are many courses available that teach people to be mediators, from three day intensive courses to post- graduate qualifications offered by Universities.  Some organisations that hire mediators also provide their own training.  Before spending money on a course, it is worth conducting your own research to ensure you select the course that is right for you.  If you intend to work within an industry scheme, find out what training they require, and whether they only hire mediators who are part of an industry scheme.  The National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS) (see below) sets out minimum requirements for mediation training. 

An independent industry body known as the Mediator Standards Board (MSB) is responsible for developing and maintaining the NMAS. Further information about the MSB is available on the MSB website. The MSB has a list of practitioner bodies "Recognised Mediator Accreditation Body" (RMAB) who you can register with, once you meet the scheme's practice standards

Do I need a law degree?

Not required. But it can be beneficial, particularly if you want to practice mediation in particular fields, such as Industrial law disputes, commercial disputes (under litigation), or Family Law matters. 

What qualifications do I need and where can I get them?

While there is no mandatory requirement to have a qualification to practice as a mediator, many mediators find it useful to be part of an industry scheme.

The National Mediator Accreditation System is an overarching national accreditation scheme which provides a minimum level of standards for all mediators. Other specialist mediator accreditation schemes may exist side by side with the NMAS that impose specialist requirements for particular fields such as the family dispute resolution practitioner registration requirements under the Family Law Act 1975.

An independent industry body known as the Mediator Standards Board (MSB) is responsible for developing and maintaining the NMAS. Further information about the MSB is available on the MSB website.  The MSB has a list of practitioner bodies "Recognised Mediator Accreditation Body" (RMAB) who you can register with, once you meet the scheme's practice standards.

Where can I work?

Many mediators set up private practice, either as a stand-alone business or part of a range of services provided.  Lawyers, Psychologists and Building surveyors often add mediation as a service provided as part of the professional function.  Other mediators join panels of mediators, which may be part of a government or industry scheme.  In Victoria, all jurisdictions of Courts have mediation panels, as well as VCAT, the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) and the Small Business Commissioner (SBC).  Each organisation has its own requirements for membership, and the work is generally sessional.  Family relationship centres, and organisations such as Relationships Australia also employ mediators. 

Information for Practising Lawyers

I want to incorporate mediation into my practice - how can I do this?

There is no special requirement to incorporate mediation into your practice - you can start tomorrow if you wish.  However clients seeking mediation are most likely to consult a list of practitioners from the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar or the Courts.  Each of these institutions have their own list of approved legal practitioners qualified to conduct mediations, and it is worth enquiring with them to see what their requirements are. You might also consider building up networks by joining industry bodies that support mediation and ADR:

Resolution Institute - Combining LEADR and IAMA

Resolution Institute is a vibrant community of mediators, arbitrators, adjudicators, restorative justice practitioners and other DR professionals. Created as a result of the integration of LEADR with IAMA in 2014, we are a not-for-profit organisation with more than 4,000 members in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region.

Our offices are in Sydney (Australia) and Wellington (New Zealand).

Call (02) 9251 3366 or 1800 651 650
Visit the Resolution Institute website 

Victorian Bar

The Victorian Bar is a private, voluntary, self-funded, non-profit professional association of barristers who practise in Victoria. The Victorian Bar is responsible for making the legal profession rules that govern barristers, processing applications for practising certificates and investigating complaints against barristers. The Victorian Bar also runs a mediation service.

Call (03) 9225 7111 or visit the Victorian Bar website

Where is training available?

In Victoria there are a variety of mediation training providers, many of whom are also mediation providers.  Try:

  • Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV)
  • Institute Arbitrators and Mediators (IAMA)
  • Leading Edge Alternative Dispute Resolution (LEADER)
  • Relationships Australia
  • Family Mediation centre
  • As well TAFEs and Universities

Is mediation likely to become a full-time practice?

Like advocacy, it depends on you and the reputation you build for your mediation skills.  Few lawyers are currently full-time mediators, but that is changing as mediation is becoming increasingly accepted as a part of daily litigation practice.

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