Become a SEDRS Volunteer
Being a volunteer mediator can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Every case brings a new set of problems that need solving, feelings that need calming, relationships that need repairing. Not every mediation ends in agreement. But those that do often leave us with a feeling of satisfaction that is uniquely rewarding and different from any other volunteer experience you may have had in the past.
Having said that, not everyone is cut out for being a volunteer mediator. Here is a list of qualities that good mediators tend to have:
- A strong sense of empathy with the problems, situations, and feelings of others
- The ability to stay neutral even when your heart clearly wants to side with one party or the other
- A non-judgmental attitude, as free of stereotypes and generalities as possible
- The ability to take yourself out of the equation. You may have had a similar problem as your clients in the past but your focus must always be on helping your clients reach their own conclusions and their own solutions
- Punctuality. If you have a habit of being late or missing appointments, this is NOT the volunteer experience for you!
- Disciplined and able to summarize issues and solutions clearly and succinctly. There are specific forms used by the courts that must be filed for each case. Since a signed agreement is the same as a legal contract, learning to write good agreements is an essential skill for a mediator.
- A natural curiosity that makes you eager to continue learning how to get better as a mediator.
If you have some or all of these qualities plus a warm, approachable personality, you are ready to consider taking the basic 40-hour civil mediation course that is offered locally every other year and is also available around the state at other State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) supported mediation centers. We ask quite a lot of our volunteers by way of training. The 40-hour Civil Mediation class is a serious investment of time and money. You must attend all 40 hours of training before you can engage in your internship. You must be an active learner in the training as there are two full days devoted to role-playing exercises and, by Michigan Court Rule, everyone has to participate in role playing at least twice during training. You must give SDRS consent to conduct a background check on you. You must faithfully and turn in paperwork on your cases immediately after completing a mediation session so that our Case Manager can record your results for the courts. Once you have mediated a fair number of civil cases, you may be interested in further Restorative Justice, Domestic Matters, and Special Education is just a few of the specialty areas you can explore as you grow as a mediator. Having volunteers with some of these specialties is essential to providing a comprehensive mediation service to our region, especially for those who can afford legal counsel. Often, SDRS will pay for advanced training if we are in need of a certain specialty or launching a new specialized program. And finally, every volunteer mediator must take an 8-hour Advanced Mediation Training workshop every two years if you wish to continue to be approved to serve on court rosters of mediators. These Advanced seminars are often on very interesting topics of the law such as ethics, domestic violence, and child protection mediation.
High-quality volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization and a lifeline to our clients. Please call 517-990-0279 if you’d like to talk further about volunteering for SEDRS.