While court ADR has taken hold in many jurisdictions, RSI continues to hear statements like these. They indicate a continuing need to train quality neutrals. In addition, education and outreach are needed to help users and potential users of ADR understand ADR and how to make the best use of it.
RSI trains mediators for our own court ADR programs and for others' court ADR programs. We also conduct specialized and advanced mediation training.
Decades of work in the alternative dispute resolution field have taught RSI that effective ADR programs require neutrals who are both skilled and knowledgeable. Our training, therefore, emphasizes both process skills and substantive information. The balance between the two depends on factors such as the skills and knowledge the neutrals possess prior to the training and the types of cases they will be handling.
For example, when we trained foreclosure mediators in a jurisdiction with a well-developed cadre of civil mediators, we spent a larger proportion of training on substantive knowledge. We taught these experienced mediators how the foreclosure process works and how banks review mortgages for possible modification. When we covered mediation skills and process, it was within the context and peculiarities of foreclosure mediation. In comparison, when we trained new mediators, the training was much longer and so the substantive portion was shorter in comparison.
The best way to learn how to do something is to do it. This is especially true when training adult learners. The core of RSI's training process, therefore, is the opportunity for each mediator to mediate simulated mediation cases and receive individual feedback from an experienced mediation trainer. The trainees also have an opportunity to play the roles of parties in mediation and experience what the participants experience.
The simulations, also known as roleplays, allow mediators to put into practice the process they are learning, e.g., mediator's opening, opening comments by each party, identification of issues and setting of agenda, conversation and negotiation among all parties, separate meetings with smaller groups, conversation and negotiation among all parties, and resolution. They also practice the skills they are learning, e.g., effective questioning, active listening, reflecting emotions, identifying needs and interests, helping parties develop solutions, and writing up any agreements.
We intersperse the parts of the training that focus on mediation process and skills with more substantive information. Depending on the type of case the court ADR program will handle, some of the training is about the type of case. For child protection mediators, for example, we include information on the child protection system, how a child protection case moves through the court, what kinds of services are available when children have been abused and neglected, what unique issues to watch out for, and who all the participants are in these cases. On the other hand, very little information is needed for something like a small claims mediation program.
Another important part of training any group of mediators is mediation ethics. Mediators need to understand how the expectations of them as mediators are different from other professions they may have practiced. When mediators understand foundational principles, such as party self-determination, confidentiality and mediator neutrality, they are better prepared to address unusual situations as they arise.
Finally, when training mediators for any court mediation program, we address how the program operates. Mediators need to know how to schedule to mediate, how to complete any paperwork, etc.
RSI staff members are well-known for presentations on everything from the state of court ADR to how to refer a case to mediation. We speak at local, state and national meetings of bar associations, ADR gatherings and other groups who are interested in varied aspects of ADR.
We also conduct educational sessions. Often, these are targeted to program partners. For example, when we start a new court ADR program, we meet with groups of stakeholders to explain how the program will work and answer questions from each group's perspective. We also conduct more general education sessions for groups such as lawyers who are interested in how to use ADR in their law practice.
Designed and conducted foreclosure mediator trainings throughout Illinois
Worked with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois to train their Child Protection mediators
Designed and conducted advanced mediator trainings across the US and internationally.
RSI has put on programming to address a wide array of ADR-related topics.