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What does a Mediator and Arbitrator do?

An arbitrator and mediator often work in the legal services industry or in local and state governments attempting to resolve conflicts between opposing parties outside of the court system. These professionals are professional negotiators as an arbitrator and mediator’s ultimate goal is to encourage and facilitate negotiations and dialogue between conflicting parties with the goal of reaching acceptable agreements for both sides. However, here is the difference is between the two.

An arbitrator is a person or group appointed to settle a dispute outside of the court system. They will hear testimony from the individuals in dispute and make a decision. This process is less formal than going to court. A mediator does not hear evidence or make a decision, they assist two disputing parties to communicate and reach a settlement with one another.

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Professional negotiators work in various places, like law enforcement, state or local government, legal services industry, and other major business organizations. They negotiate solutions between two or more parties to reach peaceful, business, or sales conflicts. Negotiators work in crime scenes and offices, depending on the specialty of the mediator. A professional negotiator may be your career if you like solving problems and resolving conflicts!

How to Become a Mediator or Arbitrator

Educational requirements for arbitrators and mediators may vary because many have expertise in a particular field that they help settle disputes within. In some instances, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient in their field of knowledge. However, some may have advanced degrees in business administration or law. Colleges and universities may offer a 2-year master’s degree, certificate program, or doctoral degree in conflict resolution or dispute.

Most negotiators have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. For instance, someone who works within the legal services industry needs to have a law, business administration, or other pertinent degrees. Some employers require a master’s degree to work in this field. They need to ensure contracts meet federal or state regulations and manage labor agreements or other conflicts that prove they have advanced knowledge in a negotiation process.

An arbitrator is most often a retired judge, business professional, or lawyer. Independent mediation programs, colleges, and local and national mediation membership organizations provide training that most states require before an applicant can practice in court-appointed or state-funded mediation cases. This usually means you would need to complete of 20-40 hours of training.

Other professional negotiators, such as within the law enforcement industry, like a crisis or hostage negotiator, needs a Bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice with courses in communications, psychology, law, and other applicable studies. They may gain experience as a police officer or federal agent. A negotiator needs to continue taking courses related to crisis negotiations and tactics and attend lectures that can build up their resume. Because background experience is necessary, they sometimes enroll in a police academy or federal agent training program that is beneficial when competing for a job. It is occasionally possible to shadow a crisis negotiator and gain knowledge, training, exposure to other cultures and backgrounds, and experience in highly charged situations.

Job Description of a Mediator and Arbitrator

Professional negotiators’ duties depend mainly on their area of expertise, so let’s break that down a little. A contract negotiator speaks with everyone to assess the areas of concern and studies cases that were similar. They evaluate the contract and determine the best solution for all parties concerned, including their employer. They set up meetings with clients to consider new proposals that are acceptable. The negotiator may refer to labor laws or other laws and federal and state regulations. Some of the negotiator’s contract solutions may be straightforward, while others may be highly involved.

A professional sales negotiator has the same tasks as a contract negotiator, working with multiple parties and finding acceptable solutions. They attend meetings, do market research, and work with sales teams and upper management. They review contracts, examine export laws, and apply marketing skills for strategic negotiation.

A crisis or hostage negotiator must find peaceful solutions to their job. They go to crime scenes and evaluate the situation between the criminal, hostage, and the police team. The negotiator applies their power of persuasion in the case and uses psychology and communication skills to calm a heightened situation and bring it to a successful closure. They end their day filing reports and filling out paperwork.

An arbitrator and mediator help parties settle disputes and reach mutual agreements through communication and dialog. They attempt to satisfy disputes by clarifying needs, issues, and concerns and would usually conduct meetings in the initial process. They clarify procedural issues like time requirements, fees, or witnesses. They would be responsible for setting up appointments, conducting interviews from witnesses or claimants, and reach conclusions through their knowledge of policy, law, and regulation.

An arbitrator and mediator listens carefully to both sides of the opposing parties and strives to settle disputes outside the court system. Mediators are neutral parties that help resolve disputes, however, make no decisions. Arbitrators hear disputes and make impartial decisions.

Mediator and Arbitrator Career Video Transcript

Many people involved in legal disputes prefer to resolve their differences in a meeting room instead of court to save costs or maintain a more informal, flexible atmosphere. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts without entering a courtroom. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators hold private hearings to clarify the issues and interests of all involved, and encourage parties to find areas of mutual agreement.

Though closely related, the three work somewhat differently. Arbitrators hear and decide disputes. They are usually attorneys, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field. Their cases may be legally (or voluntarily) referred for arbitration. Mediators are neutral parties who facilitate discussions to reach a satisfactory agreement. If no agreement is reached, they may choose different options, often the court system.

Conciliators are similar to mediators, except that they typically meet with the parties separately, and then make recommendations. Most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work full time, in either legal services, government, or non-profit organizations, and may travel to different sites for negotiations. Most people who work in these fields have education in another field, such as law or business management, or experience in an industry related to the dispute. Advanced degrees or certificates in dispute or conflict resolution may qualify candidates for some positions.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators.

National Center for O*NET Development. 23-1022.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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