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How do I become a mediator?

Updated: Apr 22, 2021

One of the most asked questions of people inspired by my talks, and I’m sure other people’s talks on mediation is – how do I become a mediator?

Perhaps this is an easy question to answer – and I will do my best to do so in this guide. However, a more critical question to ask is, whether you can consider mediation as a profession and whether you will make a living as a mediator?

Being inspired by the purpose and method of mediation is one thing that is guaranteed, the second thing that is equally guaranteed is that you will find a bucket load of service providers wanting to train you and accredit you as a mediator – but what is not guaranteed is making a career and, more importantly, a living from mediation. In fact, at present, it is more likely that you are guaranteed to become an inspired, believer, and competently trained mediator with good accreditations but with little or no work.

Tip 1: Plan your career path as a mediator

Mediation is more likely an ancillary skill or offering to what you currently doing. So don’t give up your job as a lawyer, priest, or psychologist. View mediation as something that you will endeavor to grow into a profession over time.

Having said this –there are panels of mediators created by virtue of legislation that provide a steady stream of work. A clear example is the Labour Relations Act, which has established the CCMA and provides both compulsory mediation and arbitration services. The CCMA is by far the largest dispute resolution agency in the country and in Africa. So if you are interested in an area of specialty like labour law and want to practice as a full-time mediator and arbitrator or even part-time but with more regular work – then apply to the CCMA when they advertise positions. Click here for commissioner positions that are available.

Tip 2: Get trained as a mediator on a quality course

Despite my cynicism – it is quite important to obtain good quality mediation training. Yet again, you must make a choice, do you want to practice as labour mediator, divorce mediator, and civil courts annexed mediator or a commercial mediator?

Training providers and standards are currently not regulated by legislation. DISAC has been established to voluntarily regulate the standards of training in civil mediation. NABFAM does the same for family mediation and the CCMA establishes its own criteria for its training in labour mediation. At present, the CCMA, along with some universities, has piloted a certificate program that is of excellent quality. It is now possible to acquire your training as a CCMA commissioner through a university and then apply to the CCMA when positions are available. The university programs are a joint initiative and will be recognized training for the CCMA, without requiring additional in-house training. Click here for the Wits Law School, Mandela Institute course.

The standards applied by DISAC and NABFAM are internationally recognized and have slowly been accepted as the standard for mediation training through various ways by the government. For example, the Rules of Court Annexed Mediation has adopted the standards developed by DISAC, without adopting DISAC as a body. So if you are looking for mediation training, make sure it complies with a quality standard that will be recognized.

Tip 3 – Choose where you get trained as a mediator carefully

The more expensive training programs usually spend resources on individual coaching and assessments. They also provide opportunities to acquire international accreditation. For example, Conflict Dynamics training will have individual coaching and assessments by senior experienced mediators and assessors. You could also apply to be accredited as a CEDR (UK) mediator. The CEDR accreditation is an internationally recognized accreditation in mediation.

Universities such as the Mandela Institute at Wits law school offer a certificate program in civil mediation that has an effective assessment model, which provides individual coaching and assessment. This offers the advantage of compliance with the South African and international standards and certification by a prestigious university. It, however, does not allow for international accreditation. This program will however most likely be offered at other universities and recognized by the Department of Justice.

The LEAD mediation-training program is effective but provides less individual coaching and a simplified assessment model. The course is affordable but should not be valued on its price as Lead and the Law Society subsidize it. DISAC however, has provisionally accredited the Lead civil mediation course and the NABFAM Lead Divorce mediation course. There are a number of other courses on offer for prices that are far below the market – be careful if they have no accreditation and always check if they meet local standards. Also please check on the faculty that present the course and obtain references from past attendees. You don’t want to be left with an expensive certificate that can only be used as scrap paper.

Tip 4 – Get connected to get work

The reality is that mediation is a developing profession in South Africa. It does not provide an abundance of work. The best way to try to get work is to be appointed to bodies such as the CCMA. These bodies provide a steady stream of work at a fair rate. However, they are often limited to a field of work.

Alternatively, set up your own business and pursue work for mediation. has set up the e-mediator concept specifically to assist mediators, new and experienced, to acquire the tools to become more entrepreneurial. It also offers a collaboration portal with mentoring and allows you to freely market yourself. Join the initiative and register now as an e-mediator.

Lastly spread the word and sell mediation where appropriate to family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Most importantly gain experience even if you offer your services at a reduced cost or for free.

Ebrahim Patelia


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