Professional Mediator Guide to Certification
By Salim Uqdah
Salim Uqdah, a Dispute Resolution Council Member and Co-Chair of the Dispute Resolution Pro Bono Committee, discusses his journey to certification for North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission’s Superior Court, Family Financial, and Clerk Mediation programs.
What got you interested in the Dispute Resolution field?
There are two answers to that question. A quick summary is that sometimes, you have to be lost to find your true purpose.
In 2016-2017, I felt lost and conflicted. I no longer wanted to pursue law school, and my crisis of faith and identity felt overwhelming and nerve-racking. After six to seven months of research, I realized that mediation was a viable option for me; it also helped to have the ADR coordinator sitting one cubicle behind me. I took the MSC training in March and opened my company, Uroboros Mediations, in June 2018. I gained expertise in other areas, like divorce coaching, collaborative law neutral facilitation, arbitration in FINRA cases, and dispute system design.
The dispute resolution field allows people to feel true empowerment. We all want to be the master of our destinies, and dispute resolution can help people craft, assess, and pledge to a solution that will benefit them and those around them. The dispute resolution field can be the industry to change how we engage in modern humanity in an ethical, thoughtful, and restorative manner. I hope to champion the work and field in everything I do.
What was the process for obtaining mediation certification as a Professional Mediator for both Superior Court Certification and Family Financial? How long did it take?
It took me two years to become NCDRC Certified Mediator in Family Financial. In 2018, I was in the first class to receive the training from RSR Mediation Training with Mark Riopel, Heidi Risser, and Ketan Soni. The more complicated part was becoming an Advanced Practitioner in Family & Divorce, which was required for the certification process. Diann Seigle was kind enough to conduct my case evaluations. I achieved the certification based on the old standard of Rule 2, which allowed non-certified mediators to mediate domestic court cases. The Rules for Settlement Procedures in District Court Family Financial Cases were amended to disallow non-certified mediators from handling family financial cases in the court system. It is challenging to source cases to mediate, but it’s even tougher to reach the number of mediation hours needed for Advanced Practitioner designation.
I became approved for the Clerk’s Mediation Program for Will Trusts & Estates a year after my FFS certification. Once certified in either FFS or MSC program, you are eligible for the Mediation Inc. program. It took place over a DVD-recorded program and a graded exam. The hardest part was finding a DVD player!
Lastly, it took me four years to become an NCDRC Certified Mediator in Superior Court cases due to the additional requirements and Rules governing professional mediators. The Rules state to be certified under Rule 8, you must have the following:
- A 4-year degree from an accredited institution of higher education and 10 years of relatively high-level management or professional experience. OR A 4-year degree from an accredited institution of higher education, mediation experience (mediate at least thirty disputes over the course of at least three years), and have four years of management or professional experience (Look at MSC Rule 8(a)(2)(b)(3) for more guidance).
- Complete at least a 40-hour MSC training program, a 16-hour training program if you are FFS certified or who have completed training in another State;
- Complete a 6-hour prerequisite course on N.C. court organization, legal terminology and civil court procedure, before enrolling in the 40-hour training course (can be waived)
- Provide five letters of reference, including at least one letter from a person with knowledge of the applicant’s work experience.
My certification process was long because of my professional experience and mediation experience. None of my previous employment at the courthouse met the Rule 8 standard, so I had to run my company for four years to meet the standard. Additionally, I had completed 30 mediated disputes in one year but did not adhere to the “at least three years” part of the provision. I had to wait until 2022 when I finally became certified. I took the MSC training in 2018 with the fabulous Ellen Gelbin, but I had to retake the course this year with Andy Litte because of a lapse in time.
What additional or supplemental training or learning did you do during your journey? What is your most significant achievement, hope, or challenge now that all the certifications have been accomplished?
I’ve happily done other trainings, like Divorce Coaching, FINRA Arbitration, and Collaborative Law Neutral Facilitation, and learning more about Dispute System Design, which has been my new fascination. All my skills add to my mediator capabilities and create a comprehensive role as Dispute Resolution Professional. I hope that more everyday people will become more educated and eager to engage in dispute resolution methods, especially for underserved communities.
I am proud that I joined Miles Mediation & Arbitration Group as their first Professional Mediator on the panel. I plan to expand my practice to other jurisdictions, like Georgia, where my registration is currently under review. Once you are certified, there are grandfather provisions in many states so that you can practice across the nation.
What are some key takeaways? What advice would you give to other burgeoning practitioners? Was it worth it?
Please complete the MSC Provisional Pretraining Packet to get feedback from the Dispute Resolution Commission about whether you are eligible to be certified. Collect your documentation, organize your records, and be sure to rely on your support system to get your observations done. Try to find a mediator mentor; I found one in Ray Owens, Diann Seigle, and Ann Anderson, and I would be proud to be half the mediator they all have become.
Certification is the first step; the next is to grow your practice and niche or round out your skills. It may be arduous, but it will be worth it, and the dispute resolution community will welcome you with open arms. I was looking for a career, and I found a calling. I will encourage anyone who is interested in becoming more immersed in mediation and other DR field to please get involved with the NCBA’s Dispute Resolution Section. We would love more members, and it’s a great way to build relationships with your colleagues, obtain experience in the field, and keep up with current trends.
I am lucky to experience such a splendidly diverse mediation education and represent diversity by my presence, experience, and style. If you want to know more about my journey or get to know more about my background, please check out my Linktree. I wish you the best of luck in your dispute resolution endeavors in the new year.
ABOUT SALIM UQDAH
Prior to joining Miles Mediation & Arbitration in Charlotte, Salim Uqdah opened his own business, Uroboros Mediations, in 2018, and worked diligently at Mecklenburg County Courthouse for three years. Salim combines perseverance, passion, and empathy to achieve hard-won successes and constantly diversifies his skills, talents, and network. He is one of a few Advanced Practitioners of the Association of Conflict Resolution Academy of Family Mediators in North Carolina and is a member of the NC Association of Professional Family Mediators.