Co-mediation involves a team of mediators. Usually two mediators, though it could be more, work with disputing parties to assist them reach resolution. The co-mediation process serves various purposes.
In mediations involving many parties and multiple issues, like huge environmental clean-up cases, it provides a practical case management tool. In matters such as racial discrimination or sexual harassment, it enables a “balanced” team of mediators to stem perceptions of mediator bias. In matters involving highly technical disputes, parties can mix and match mediators to create the ideal blend of interpersonal skills and subject matter expertise. Within internal employment mediation programs, managers and staff can work together as mediation teams to cultivate trust within the process. In highly contested matters, counsel may seek a team of mediators representative of plaintiff and defense bar. In emotionally charged neighbor disputes, community volunteer mediators can help each other stay focused and fair.
Co-mediation is probably under utilized primarily because of perceived cost and coordination factors. However, there are other reasons it may not be the norm within the mediation profession. Despite its many advantages, co-mediation itself is ridden with hidden land-mines. It is almost a mediation within a mediation.
To truly be effective, co-mediators must work together like a well-oiled mediation machine. It is rarely a natural partnership. It almost always takes practice. Mediating together is a lot like dancing. It can be graceful and seamless. It can be clumsy and awkward. Egos collide. Focus is fractured. While co-mediating, toes can be trampled…and not just each others.
To become and remain successful, mediation teams should map a plan, practice their approach and periodically adjust their strategy during the mediation process. The more comfortable and confident they are working together, the better they will be at mentoring and effectuating collaborative problem solving. In mediation, you can not “dance like no one is watching.”