Workplace Mediation -- In Defense Of Attorneys As Mediators

"Attorneys are trained to be sharks," shouted the writer in his professional blog. "They have to win to survive. And that's not what mediation is about. So they are not good at mediating. Never have been. Never will be." Good lord. Really?

I am not an attorney. However, I did work with lawyers almost every day of my corporate career. And I was always thankful to have smart legal advocates in my corner.

Today, as a workplace mediator, I continue to interact with attorneys. And I still prefer to have clever, mindful lawyers present and involved. Are they sharks? No. That's a cynical expression. Are they focused and passionate? Yes, the good ones are.

Those who argue that lawyers cannot (by their nature or education, by their training or experience) be objective mediators paint far too broad a caricature. Attorneys are in fact impartial when asked to represent the process of mediation. How is that possible for warriors? By the same nature, education, training, and experience that makes them great lawyers. They understand their ethical obligations. Just as attorneys are cognizant of their responsibilities towards clients, they abide by their obligations to the principles of mediation.

Let's not forget that a vast majority of civil cases end in settlements. Settlements don't occur by happenstance. They are the result of legal representatives spending their energy and time in creative problem solving, searching out common ground, exploring options, and understanding when to agree.

In defense of attorneys as mediators, I find that they apply their same talents to the mediation process as they do to representation of their clients.


Thornton Mason is a national dispute resolution consultant and human relations mediator with 25 years of experience resolving over 1200 employee matters. His 60 Second Updates have a current reach of over 750,000 readers. He and Mediation Resolves focus on eliminating formal employee complaints, avoiding internal relationship disputes, preventing grievance backlogs, and restarting stalled labor negotiations.