Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I want to be useful to the community - whether in my neighborhood, in my town, in my country or internationally. I've got a few ideas I want to explore.

Several years ago I talked to my friend Dorre, who serves as a volunteer family law mediator in the Yakima court system. These days, mediation (collaborative law) is an effective and economical way to resolve many disputes without the need for attorneys or a trial. Dorre said there were classes available, and internships - out of Everett, which is close to where I live.

Then, today, I was in small claims court. For the cases where both the plaintiff and the defendant were present, they were assigned to a mediator and sent to another room to see if they could resolve their dispute. The judge instructed participants to "think outside the box" and come up with a solution that would work for both people. He told of an instance where a plaintiff and a defendant hated each other, and the defendant owed the money but didn't want to pay the guy he hated. During mediation they agreed that the repayment could be made with a donation to a charitable organization. Good idea!

So now I know about two areas of the law where mediators are used. I wonder if the training is the same - if I could choose which area to work in - whether I'd need more college coursework - how long a commitment I'd need to make. Could I work, say, two or three mornings a week during the spring and summer, then be free to travel at other times? Could I be on call for vacation relief?

I have questions. But I also have lots of interest and curiosity about this possible way to be of service to the community. I know how to listen, and think, and facilitate. Those are a good beginning. It's time for me to start exploring what's involved in becoming a mediator.

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