The Future of Mediation Training

The Future of Mediation Training 16th May 2017

by Jonathan Dingle FRSA; Barrister, Mediator, Course Leader
Co-Founder of the Civil Mediation Council; Chair of Trustees - The Society of Mediators

Ten years ago, at the beginning of 2007, a group of eminent Austrian Mediators were visiting London. They had heard that there was a real resurgence in interest in the United Kingdom and wanted to know more. The author entertained them for lunch in the Temple and they admired the historical settling before exploring the gothic fantasy that is the Royal Courts of Justice building in the Strand. After that, one of their number (the late Werner Kliendorfer) asked: enough history - tell me about the future? How will you train the mediators England needs? What is the requirement?

The author set it out - and his guests were astonished. Accreditation in Austria could take up to four years, and there could be a degree involved and the minimum training was 200 hours of theory and a great deal of practical work - more than 10 times the amount of time spent in the United Kingdom. Where they asked, had this retreat from professional begun. Had the Germans started it? Or Belgium?

At that time, most mediation training in these islands, following Harvard and Notre Dame principles, with a nod to CEDR and others, took place over three brisk eight hour days. The Civil Mediation Council ("CMC"), then just five years old, required 25 hours but there was little analysis. Some trainers did not even assess students. Everyone received a certificate in return for fees upwards of £2,000 or more. No one required observations, and there were no real controls over mediator quality.

There were debates about change. But people worried about the great and the good who had never undertaken any training and were dominating the market place through three organisations. It was discovered that one organisation, in Exeter, was offering training that lasted five hours. Others felt that 15 hours over two days was ample. A summer workshop of the CMC called for evidence that 15 or 25 hours was any better than five hours.

Work began.

The Australian model

Later that year, the CMC looked at the Australian model - and the report by Professor Tania Sourdin. From this it was seen that there was really strong research and the times had to change. The Australian model set standards that said:

  1. Unless ‘experience qualified’ (see Section 5 (3) below), from 1 January 2008, a mediator must have completed a mediation education and training course that:

a) is conducted by a training team comprised of a at least two instructors where the principal instructor[s] has more than three years’ experience as a mediator and has complied with the continuing accreditation requirements set out in Section 6 below for that period and has at least three years’ experience as an instructor; and

b) has assistant instructors or coaches with a ratio of one instructor or coach for
every three course participants in the final coached simulation part of the training
and where all coaches and instructors are accredited; and

c) is a program of a minimum of 38 hours in duration (which may be constituted by
more than one mediation workshop provided not more than nine months has
passed between workshops), excluding the assessment process referred to in
Section 5(2) below; and

d) involves each course participant in at least nine simulated mediation sessions and
in at least three simulations each course participant performs the role of mediator;

e) provides written, debriefing coaching feedback in respect of two simulated
mediations to each course participant by different members of the training team.

This soon became adopted as a good basis. Research from the LSE led to a training committee proposing much the same model. Transition periods were put in place and the move to a five day course became established, even if some found it awkward and unwelcome.

On 28th September 2007, invited back to Vienna, the author listened to Sir Brian Neill, then a most respected and charming Chair of the Civil Mediation Council, speak on this subject. He acknowledged the differences across Europe but even his vision could not have imagined a Europe without Britain. He saw mediators as trans-European creatures, building on the European Code of Conduct, and offering an effect alternative to legal warfare. No panacea, he said, but a well-trained body of mediators, working to proper standards, that met with judicial approval, would be a real force for change and good in legal reform.

A decade on

Enough, though, of the context. Almost a decade later where are we? The norm remains 40 hours of contact time with an examination and independent assessment by trained trainers, who are also experienced mediators. Some providers meet this standard. Others have, through a march to profit or by a different ethos, elected to offer training people who may have done a course themselves, but have largely never worked as mediators. One course, notoriously, argues through its academic leaders who have not mediated, that mediators should never read any documents sent in advance in case they are biased. Another conducts training using stolen materials which it hawks into India and elsewhere.

There is, then, a real range of mediation training providers, even amongst those registered with the voluntary body that remains the status of the Civil Mediation Council. Whilst the standards set by the CMC are required by judicial bodies and some government tenders, such as the recent NHSLA tender for personal injury and clinical negligence, and for costs mediation, these are far from universally adopted and are not mandatory.

What of the future?

At a recent demonstration of mediation skills, by students from King's College London at the headquarters of Pinsent Masons LLP in the City, Sir Peter Cresswell, the Patron of the Society of Mediators and an eminent international jurist, called for mediation training to be made more effective and practical, to be focussed and to involve a deeper understanding of psychology, the law, conflict and the theoretical context.

The author welcomes his vision. The Society of Mediators ("SOM"), offering cost-price training at a third or a half of the cost of competent alternatives, will embrace this call. From 2017/2018 Academic Year, all SOM trainees will be expected to embark on a much longer journey - with a total of ten days of classroom work, practicals, observations, and ultimately a diploma paper that will mean that to be a Fellow of the Society, some 200 hours of work, training, writing, and experience, on top of the examination, will have been performed to a properly assessed standard.

Members who train with the Society will be awarded a Diploma in Mediation if they pass the second in a series of examinations after 100 hours of work and tuition. This will enable them to progress to Fellowship with the preparation of a learned paper on an aspect of mediation.

This process will be backed up by peer mentoring and support, self-reflection and coaching. In short, a proper professional framework which by 2020 should offer a cohort of mediators of whom Werner and Sir Brian would be proud. That is the SOM vision. That is our commitment.

How SOM will deliver this vision

SOM's 2017 training and refresher/CPD courses are as set out in the training pages at this link.

For the next 12 months they will largely be held in London at the National Mediation Centre in 218 Strand - as well as around the country, and abroad. Courses cost £1,200 plus VAT for the first five days (or £1,800 plus VAT if spread over three pairs of days in modules). The savings are because are leaders and tutors are all paid sensible and identical fees, we work in our own Centre, and we do so not for profit. The surplus goes to the Free Mediation Project.

Every course is led and tutored, by trainers who not only have mediated extensively, and are qualified to deliver training, but also who have attended advanced courses and have studied the psychological and social framework of mediation. Every student is therefore coached and mentored through the training and supported by a ratio of one tutor to every six students. There is time allowed and proper criteria with strong learning objectives set for each module.

This is, then a vision that SOM will deliver that accords with its status and governing document as a Charity. It is important and refreshing to know that this is attainable and in the minds of those who care. It is to be hoped that students looking for training probe the motives and real skill levels of every faculty, North, and South, West and Midlands, to ensure they are being offered a truly effective and coherent course where the first concern is the needs of the student, and the last - lining the pockets of the owners.

For more details of how SOM is working to make this change, and how you can help or learn with the Charity, please contact the Secretary (0207 353 3936) or email for details. Take that ethical first step and let us journey together to a place the Austrians would have recognised a decade ago.  


  • CPD Days selling out
    3 Aug 2018

    The Society's CPD days on 11 October and 19 December are selling out fast - please book your place now or miss out on the best course, the most affordable, and the most enjoyable way to keep up your skills ... follow the link to book for training...

    Read More
  • SoM launches project with Helena Kennedy Centre
    31 Jul 2018

    We are pleased to report that SoM have been working closely with Sheffield Hallam University and the Helena Kennedy Centre to provide training to students in Mediation. We are delighted to be working with institutions that are value driven and are striving...

    Read More
  • Welcome 218 Strand Chambers!
    9 Jul 2018

    218 Strand is now home to a newly launched set of Barrister's Chambers. Longstanding friends and Joint Heads of Chambers Andrea Barnes and Jonathan Dingle decided to establish their own set in January 2018. They aim to deliver a first class service...

    Read More
  • Uganda Mediation Project
    9 Jul 2018

    SoM have for some time been working on a variety of projects across Africa as part of the Free Mediation Project (FMP). A variety of courses have been provided in South Africa and SoM trustees are in talks with mediators there with the aim of bringing...

    Read More
  • Workplace Mediation Training
    14 Jun 2018

    The Society is delighted to respond to demand from alumni for further workplace mediation courses.  These cover workplace and employment mediation and are specially designed to meet the requirements of the CMC and of employers. Led by John Sephton...

    Read More
  • Free Mediations...
    14 Jun 2018

    The Society's Free Mediation Project (part of our charitable outreach) continues to be a popular resource.  It is open to all those who would like to benefit from a free mediation whether as part of pro bono work or simply to resolve a conflcit...

    Read More
  • Extra CPD in Manchester - 7 June
    8 May 2018

    By popular demand the Society has organised CPD training in Manchester, including a professional demonstration on 7 June 2018 at the Society of Friends Mount Street, Manchester (behind the Library).  The course will be led by Andrea Barnes and Jonathan...

    Read More
  • Workplace Course brings up record
    7 May 2018

    SOM is nelighted to record that its present workplace and employment mediation course brings to 500 the number of people it has reached in the last year with trainign and education programmes.  This is set to be beaten over the next 12 months...

    Read More
  • Mediation promoted in Africa
    1 May 2018

    The Society is delighted to announce that with the assistance of volunteers it is promoting mewdiaiton into Africa with renewed vigour this year through three distinct projects.  If you are interested in this work, please contact the Society and...

    Read More
  • Mediation in the Cayman Islands
    8 Apr 2018

    The Society is delighted to have been invited back again this summer to build on its work in the Cayman Islands.  Further details of the course work is on our training page but we are honoured to continue to develop mediation options in the region...

    Read More
  • CMC proposes automatic referral to mediation
    26 Nov 2017

    On the 17th October 2017, the Working Group of the Civil Justice Council (CJC) published a 98-page interim report on ADR and its place within the civil justice system. The report concluded with a set of recommendations and initiated a consultation process...

    Read More
  • New Mediation Suites for 2018
    18 Nov 2017

    The Society of Mediators is delighted to announce that its mediation suites in the National Mediation Centre at 218 Strand will be completely new for 2018.  We have signed an agreement which will allow us to offer the second floor suites, looking...

    Read More
  • CPD Courses sell out!
    17 Nov 2017

    The Society's mediation CPD courses in Bristol in November, London in December, and Taunton in February are sold out.   The next course available which will be in the Society's new Albion, Beaver, and Fox (named after Royal Navy ships)...

    Read More
  • First Free Mediation
    10 Nov 2017

      First Free Mediation a Success! The Free Mediation Project is a new and exciting initiative led by the Society of Mediators which allows for trained mediators to promote mediation and gain invaluable experience. This is done by...

    Read More
  • Textbook published!
    17 Oct 2017

    The Society are delighted to announce the publication of Practical Mediation - the mediation textbook written by its Trustees - and the royalties from which will go to the Society to fund the free mediaiton project and training around the world.  The...

    Read More
  • South African Training a success
    6 Oct 2017

    The Society sent its faculty under Andrea Barnes and Jonathan Dingle FRSA to work with the Association of Arbitrators for its eighth course in RSA this week - a wonderful group of diverse students all passed and celebrated accreditation.  It is...

    Read More
  • Another successful mediation course 22th-26th of May
    12 Jun 2017

    The Society of Mediators are proud to announce that it recently accredited and certified a new group of superb and unique individuals who we, due to our week long training, are certain will be a welcome addition to the family of mediators.   Moreover,...

    Read More
  • The Future of Mediation Training
    16 May 2017

    by Jonathan Dingle FRSA; Barrister, Mediator, Course Leader Co-Founder of the Civil Mediation Council; Chair of Trustees - The Society of Mediators Ten years ago, at the beginning of 2007, a group of eminent Austrian Mediators were visiting London....

    Read More

Latest News Our Areas of Expertise: