It’s About Listening, Not Only About the Law: 5 Compelling Reasons for Professional Mediators

By Peggy Roth


In the realm of dispute resolution, mediation has emerged as a viable alternative to litigation. I believe that mediation offers us an opportunity to reach a consensus without the court making decisions on our behalf. While both attorney and non-attorney mediators play crucial roles in this process, I would like to focus on the benefits of non-attorney mediators.


These professionals bring a unique perspective to the table, as their impartiality and their ability to listen and ask the right questions take precedence over legal expertise. Particularly in domestic or family matters, where emotions and history often run deep, non-attorney mediators excel in recognizing and addressing subtle undercurrents.


True Neutrality

I find that one significant benefit of being a non-attorney mediator is my ability to serve as a true neutral. Unlike attorney mediators who may have represented specific parties in the past, I  have never represented or had the role of advocating for a particular side. This impartiality establishes a sense of fairness and ensures that all parties involved feel heard and understood. By remaining unbiased, I am able to facilitate open communication and guide participants towards a mutually agreeable resolution.


Listening and Asking the Right Questions

Judges are trained to make decisions. Attorneys are trained to advocate for their clients. I have the greatest respect for the legal profession and appreciate what lawyers bring to their clients. As a non-attorney mediator with a background in psychology, I don’t rely on legal expertise. My approach allows me to delve into the underlying issues driving conflict and explore potential solutions collaboratively. By asking thought-provoking questions, I am able to encourage parties to reflect on their interests, needs, and concerns. I guide the parties through effective communication techniques to gain insights and find common ground, ultimately leading to a resolution that meets everyone’s needs.


Emotional Intelligence and Understanding

Domestic or family matters often involve heightened emotions and complex histories. By acknowledging and validating emotions, non-attorney mediators foster an environment conducive to constructive dialogue and empathetic problem-solving. It’s critical that the parties feel that they are listened to – and understood. My role is to listen not only for the words that the parties may say, but also to pick up on unspoken emotional cues.


A Valuable Additional Resource

There are situations when the attorneys may rely on the mediator to be a “teller of truth”. Often the parties will listen to the mediator when they may not listen or believe what their counsel is telling them. I often say there is no guarantee what will be decided in court. I will say to the parties, “The right person to make major decisions for your family is you! No one knows or loves your children more than you do. If a middle ground cannot be found then the judge will make the decision for you.”


Engaging in litigation can be financially burdensome, with legal fees, court costs, and the potential for lengthy proceedings. Mediation, especially with a non-attorney mediator, offers a cost-effective alternative. The efficiency of mediation can save significant time and money by avoiding protracted legal battles.


Empowerment and Ownership of the Outcome

One of the core principles of mediation is empowering parties to take ownership of the outcome. Mediators facilitate a process where the parties actively participate in decision-making, rather than having a judge impose a resolution. This empowerment not only allows for more creative and customized solutions but also fosters a sense of satisfaction and ownership over the final agreement. I believe that the parties are more likely to comply with and uphold agreements they have actively contributed to, leading to more sustainable resolutions.


Finally, as a non-attorney mediator, I bring a wealth of benefits to the field of dispute resolution. As a true neutral, I prioritize listening and asking the right questions over legal precedent. My emotional intelligence and understanding are particularly valuable in domestic or family matters, where emotions tend to run high. Ultimately, I believe that non-attorney mediators play a crucial role in facilitating neutral resolution, empowering parties, and ensuring more beneficial and satisfactory outcomes for everyone involved.


About Peggy Roth

Peggy RothPeggy Roth is an experienced mediator and arbitrator who specializes in domestic, probate, personal injury, civil, eldercare, and juvenile cases. She has extensive experience in family matters and employment issues, having mediated domestic and EEOC cases for the last 14 years; she also has worked as a panel arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for the last 10 years.