I’ve often found it difficult to locate folks to help me with a problem—whether I’m looking for someone to help with a home repair, a new veterinarian or accountant. While I often use websites like tripadvisor.com to evaluate reviews for vacation planning, when I’m looking for someone to have a more significant and longer-term relationship with, those reviews can seem insufficient.
Several websites have developed to try to address this need, but many, operate on a very simple platform, with no vetting or evaluation of credentials. They post any review that is submitted. Some websites, such as avvo.com, provide more valuable and detailed information to help the consumer by evaluating some of the credentials, including publications, education, and awards.
A new group, headquartered in Seattle, is working to create a directory professions and services that include objective evaluations and recommendations. Expertise.com uses a complicated set of algorithms to review professionals and then individually evaluates each company on five criteria: reputation, credibility, experience, availability, and professionalism. While I’ve always enjoyed my 5-star rating on AVVO, my recent selection by expertise.com as one of the top mediators in the Washington D.C. area makes me very proud of the work I’ve done over the last ten years to build a firm that offers a wide variety of non-adversarial processes to resolve conflicts. Joining other mediators such as attorney Nancy Lesser with Pax ADR L.L.C. and David Goldberg with Family Mediation Services, Inc., places me in good company with other qualified mediators.
The criteria that Expertise.com employs can help someone looking for mediation services to evaluate mediators. One of the criteria they use is “credibility, defined as building customer confidence with licensing, industry accreditations, and awards.” I enjoy my direct client contact, such as working with crime and accident victims or working with litigants in mediation. I’ve had the opportunity to present my research at many conferences. I’ve also published several law review articles and had the opportunity to conduct workshops throughout the United States in the areas of mediation and restorative justice. Some of my devotion to the work stemmed the early part of my career when the West Virginia State Bar awarded me a certificate of merit for my work with children.
Another criteria cited by experise.com is experience. They define it as “Masters of their craft, based on years of practical experience and education.” I’ve worked very hard to acquire the experience and knowledge that I bring to my work. First of all, I am a lawyer with a JD and a mediator who has an MA in conflict resolution. That education distinguishes me from many mediators in the United States. Many mediators in the area do not have a law degree and have not had over 30 years practicing law. While you don't necessarily need a lawyer to be your mediator, in cases where there are legal questions or when the conflict is framed in the legal process, a lawyer is often best suited to be able to get to the heart of the matter.
Some lawyers are lawyers first and then become mediators. I followed that path. However, most lawyers take courses that are 20 or 40 hours long, in total, to become mediators. They are often very heavy handed in how they mediate and may tend to be evaluative and settlement focused. Since I also went back to school after being a lawyer for 20 years and earned a master's degree in conflict resolution. That required two years of full-time course work and practical study acquire the degree. I learned new skills such as both transformative mediation and facilitative mediation. I also studied a variety of methods of negotiation. Of course, I also took many courses in restorative justice. All of this advanced education has helped me become both a better legal advocate and mediator.
Expertise.com also looked at factors such as availability, reputation, and professionalism in providing the ranking. I am pleased to bring all of these factors to every case that our office accepts. I look forward to continuing to learn more and improve the services that we provide to our legal and mediation clients.