The Mediation Times


The talent to play “second fiddle”

by Amanda on May 27, 2009

This weekend I attended a wonderful guitar concert in a small village hall tucked away in the Yorkshire countryside. Eduardo Niebla and Carl Herring. The style was a mixture of Flamenco, Jazz and World and the playing was outstanding from both.

During the playing I noticed something very special: The younger less experienced player (Carl Herring) was doing a remarkable job of playing “second fiddle” to the maestro. He was gracious and respectful to the more experienced “star”. Furthermore, the tension created by the restraint added something very special to the music and the performance of both artists. They played superbly together. There was plenty of room for two personalities to shine but there was only room for one ego.

It put me in mind of the challenge to many of peer review,  co-mediation and mentoring and how few “senior mediators” really take that seriously. I understand why at least for the most part. Co-mediation is seen as an expensive option even though it is a superb option for the parties and pays dividends on the investment when done well. Peer review is simply scary for most and very few reviewers have a structured or substantial approach which gives the reviewed concrete outcomes. Mentoring is a serious commitment which should not be taken lightly or when the diary is over full. However, I have heard many speak of the “apprentice from hell”. These are just-trained-mediators who believe they are now certified and therefore no longer have to hold back. So, if you are an aspiring mediator and you would like to see the best at work then you will need to convey to your chosen “star” a sense of certainty that you will not wade in with your 20+ years experience as a lawyer and 40 hours foundation training in mediation.

Over the years I have often been the more experienced mediator in the room playing second to another and I find it a remarkable experience with a really valuable quality about it. It helps sharpens my skills in observation, strategy and improves my ability to invisibly support a trusted colleague and that is something I can take with me into the next mediation as part of the skill of demonstrating even-handedness.

In anticipation of the clamour about the need for high standards in training and the need for proper professional development, over the last 6 months I have consulted with my colleagues in my chambers (In Place of Strife – The Mediation Chambers) about a radically new CPD programme which proposes 210 hours of CPD in a 3 year cycle. This is an extraordinary amount of cpd when you think that the SRA require solicitors to complete 16 hours per year and the Bar Standards Board require 12 hours per year after an initial qualifying period after call.

The new programme is designed to encourage a two way flow of learning and development and places a high value on reflective practice and mentoring of aspiring mediators.

  • active learning – eg. attending training and cpd events
  • reflective learning – eg. writing, contributing to the development of mediation practice, retreats, marketing (yes marketing!), business development
  • reflective practice – eg. peer reviews, mentoring, co-mediation with post mediation reviews and playing “second fiddle” to a junior mediator
  • contribution to the profession – eg. speaking engagements (more points when you speak outside the profession), attendance at board meetings or participation in organisational activities dedicated to mediation

The full programme will be published shortly on the In Place of Strife web site. Drop me a line if you would like to know when it is published.

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