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.  


  • April Mediation Course Feedback
    23 Apr 2019

    We are delighted to present our April MediationCourse feedback, uneditted as always. To book a course click here - or call Yazmyn to discusss on 0207 353 3936        

    Read More
  • Feedback - the March course was "Excellent"
    29 Mar 2019

    We are delighted to present the first three feedback forms from mediators attending our March Workplace and Employment mediaiton course.  The next one is 12 and 13 June and can be booked here  - we are happy to share all feedback from...

    Read More
  • Workplace Mediation Training
    17 Mar 2019

    We are delighted to be welcomign a real range of skills onto the workplace mediation course in 218 Strand on 26 and 27 March - from the acting of BBCTV's Andie Gordon to the leadership and HR experience of the former Hydrographer of the Royal Navy,...

    Read More
  • Medical Mediation Foundation Training praised
    17 Mar 2019

    Leading Pain Management Consultant Dr Kenwyn James FRCA has praised the medical mediation foundation training provided by the Society: "Dear Yazmyn Could you please pass on my thanks to everyone involved in the mediation course that ran 11th-15th...

    Read More
  • King's College Pro Bono Training
    22 Feb 2019

    The Society was delighted to have been back in King's College London next week training such interested students in mediation skills at the new Bush House venue.  This exciting venture is the seventh iteration of the pro bono work we do in King's...

    Read More
  • Barristers' Training
    14 Feb 2019

    The Society is delighted to have been asked to provide civil, commercial, workplace, advocacy and CPD training to members of the Bar in 2019/2020.  The first course is in April 2019 and the programme will build with time to provide comprehensive...

    Read More
  • Feedback -and a new CPD Course in Manchester
    12 Feb 2019

    A wonderful course in manchester offered exceptional feedback typified by the email below. There is now extra CPD in Manchester on 19th March - book now! "Hi...

    Read More
  • Feedback - January at Bristol
    22 Jan 2019

    We are delighted to present just some of the amazing Feedback from the 12 person Bristol Course in January 2019 held at St Johns Chambers  -  Please contact Yazmyn on 0207 353 3936 for more details: "Excellent.  The leaders...

    Read More
  • Feedback - January 2019
    15 Jan 2019

    We are delighted to have received this from Professor Hugh Whitfield -  "In December 2018 I attended a five day mediation course run by the Society of Mediators. We were a group of 15, small enough to be able to get to know each other...

    Read More
  • Feedback ... December 2018
    22 Dec 2018

    We are delighted to offer just a tiny selection of the wonderful feedback from this month (if you would like to know more, or speak to the attendees, then do let us know!): Senior Barrister - CPD Day 20 December:  I am really not very good...

    Read More
  • Room, Hot Desk and Address Hire at 218 Strand
    15 Dec 2018

    The Society is delighted to make available freshly curated space to suitable applicants who wish to have available: * a private office space (with 24/7 access) * a permanent desk in a shared room (with secure storage and conference facilities) *...

    Read More
  • All CPD Days in 2018 sell out: next date 22 February
    15 Dec 2018

    The Society has been delighted by the take-up on our CPD Days, with more than 180 mediators provided with outstanding CPD in 2018.  Dates are now being added here[17]=mediation-cpd The next...

    Read More
  • Extra CPD Day added - 20 December 2018
    17 Oct 2018

    The Society's CPD days on 19 December has effectively sold out so we have added an extra date on 20th December to ensure mediators can get their CPD in for 2019.  The course also includes a professional demonstration with actors not only...

    Read More
  • Tremendous CPD Day in London
    13 Oct 2018

    The Society of Mediators held another exciting and succesful CPD in London this week with some 20 mediators participating from around the world - the furthest travelled was Elizabeth from Australia but others descended from Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle...

    Read More
  • Kings College Course awaits
    13 Oct 2018

    The Society's outreach into the Universities continues this month with a sold-ouut course for 30 trainee mediators in King's College London.  We are delighted to be working with the students on the project for the fifth year now and to once...

    Read More
  • Society launches a pilot mediation panel
    13 Oct 2018

    The Society is delighted to announce that it has launched a panel of expert mediators as part of a pilot to increase its outreach and development. The fourteen initial members will be available nationally on a fixed fee scheme that does not have any...

    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
  • 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

Latest News Our Areas of Expertise: