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Time for a Mediator’s Hippocratic Oath?

It is one of the defining characteristics of professions whose stakeholders invest great trust in their practitioners. Doctors make the Hippocratic Oath. Accountants, lawyers, police officers, elected officials, social workers, veterinarians and others in a position of trust also make various forms of oaths. Almost always there is a code of professional conduct and disciplinary process to back up the oath.

Yet mediators do not make an oath, even though mediators are invariably taken into parties’ trust. Many mediators do not visibly subscribe to a specific code of ethics that is governed by any kind of disciplinary process.

Should mediators make a Hippocratic-style oath? To mobilize debate [...]

Wage Peace, Not War

“Peace is not the absence of conflict. One must wage Peace as much as others wage war”.

I do not know from whom this quote originated or whether my unconscious has unwittingly amalgamated two different quotes. I only know that I feel the need to spend this month’s entry writing about peace and this quote speaks to me.

Maybe it’s because the news has been inundated with stories of humans firing missiles at one another. Or maybe it’s because a civilian airliner had been shot down because it was mistaken to be a military aircraft.

This isn’t the first time I have dedicated a blog entry to the topic of peace. My entry for February 2013 talks about Ronny Edry’s attempts to build peace from t [...]

The Physical Dimension of Mediation: lessons from Africa


I have written before on this blog about ‘mediating from the neck up’: my conviction that I was taught (and teach) a rationalistic, even cerebral, process that privileges thought over emotion and language over movement (see ).
As I acknowledged at the time, having this insight and doing something about it are two quite different propositions. How in practice do we mediate with the whole person?

Last week I witnessed a startling illustration of the power of the physical realm in our work. Strathclyde Law School (Glasgow, Scotland) runs an annual mediation summer school with John Marshall Law School (Chicago, Illinois) [...]

Pilot Mandatory Mediation Program in New York

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The judiciary in the Big Apple took an important step for promotion of mediation. On July 28, the Commercial Division in New York County Supreme Court introduced a pilot mandatory mediation program.


In 1993 New York pioneered in creating a specialized commercial court to handle complex business lawsuits. Commercial Division judges regularly decide cutting-edge legal issues. However, with a mushrooming docket, the Commercial Division has become a victim of its own success. The new mandatory mediation Pilot Project is designed to override attorney resistance to opt for mediation before a trial commences, and as a result, to ease the backlog of cases.

T [...]

Remembering to See the Wood for the Trees – A Mediator’s Reality Check

“When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.” (Nietzsche)
Relationship breakdown and the resulting fall-out is an abyss most people do not like to look into, even as they tumble into it. As family mediators, our job is to accompany and support people’s navigation into, through and, hopefully, out of the abyss again. This is not an easy task, and based on my discussions with fellow family mediators at a recent meeting, it is all too easy fall into the trap of either carrying, or pushing our clients back out of the abyss rather than helping them through it at a healthy distance.

The lines of the family mediation profession are blurry enough at the best of times. We step in an [...]

Dynamos, Cruisers and Losers

Capture99Before I left my law firm in the late 1990′s David Maister, a Boston management guru of whom many of you will know, was the darling of every large service firm, especially in the law and accountancy fields.

He has long since retired but at his height he was good, very good – despite being a former Harvard Business School professor, he had a practical wisdom that could cut through the management gobbledygook I was struggling with at my firm’s monthly management meetings at the time.

But it was the way he brutally labelled the three types of professionals, that he said inhabited service firms globally, that really caught my attention.

At any given stage in one’s professional life, Maister o [...]

It only takes a few moments……

It was just a few moments. “You can’t play on our course without proper golf shoes.” “But we played here two days ago in these shoes.” “My colleague must have made a mistake”. “But it was you who let us play…”. “It’s in our rules.” “Where?” “Here.” “No it’s not. There is nothing about soft spikes. Only shirts with collars…”

Those few moments remain seared on my brain. Out of the window went respect and courtesy. The trigger had been triggered. After a futile exchange, we grudgingly accepted the starter’s offer of golf shoes to wear, free of charge. And then there was the “you must have a bag each” rule. On a hotel 9-hole course? Forgive me but [...]

Sports, Mediation and Leadership

It was not my intention to continue talking about the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as I am not a big football fan, and probably most of us have had enough of it over the last six weeks. However, Brazil’s 7 x 1 knockout defeat to Germany is still in every Brazilian’s mind. How this could happen, what went wrong and what the “football nation” can expect in the future are some of the questions still echoing in every corner of the country.

In my humble, not expert, football opinion, instead of asking ourselves “what went wrong”, we should in fact be asking how Germany managed to do it.

Losing to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup final game and being eliminated in their own territory at the quarter [...]

Leaving disputants to their own devices

The title of this blog is not as harsh and heartless as it might seem at first sight. True, mediation proceeds largely on assumptions of disputant autonomy and participation; and the expectation is that the outcomes will be those designed by, and with the commitment of, the participants. This comment, however, picks up on two threads: first, the previous entry by Charlie Irvine on his experience of online dispute resolution [] as well as earlier discussions on this blog site and in the burgeoning literature on ODR; and second, more specific commentaries on the pot [...]

Mediation Prey

I’ve got to admit that the John Sandford “Prey” crime novels, featuring the complex detective Lucas Davenport, are a guilty pleasure of mine, both in text and particularly audiobook formats. I can usually get through an unabridged audiobook during one of my frequent return car trips between Ottawa, where I live, and Toronto, where I now mediate about 80% of my cases.

The concept of “prey” (in the sense of “take advantage of; exploit or injure; cause constant trouble or distress to”) comes to mind as I read and re-read two recent thought-provoking posts on this blog: Jeff Krivis’ June 16th post, “Settlement Drift” and Michael Landrum’s post, exactly a month later, “Top Ten Miscellaneous Obser [...]