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Autonomy In Law Profession

Business Law discussions

Autonomy In Law Profession

Postby Pfeostun » Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:30 am

Hi Tim,  I'm writing to find out how much independent freedom there is when working as an arbitrator or just in the field of law?  I am in my late twenties and have worked in both education and corporate fields.  I find the inter-office politics troublesome and sometimes outright unbearable, especially in education.

What I would like to do is to become an independent consultant and help 2 of my friends expand their businesses overseas.  Thus, I am interested in arbitration and international business law.

My question is based on the assumption that I should work at another firm to gain experience so that I can better help my friends in expanding their businesses. So, if I may ask, how much inter-office politics do you face?(what are some typical red tapes?) and how much independent freedom would you say you have in your work(must one check everything with a superior before action)?

Thanks,

K
Pfeostun
 
Posts: 47
Joined: Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:35 am

Autonomy In Law Profession

Postby Raimundo » Sat Oct 15, 2016 4:04 am

Thank you for your question.

Mediators are trained in specialized facilitation skills and work to bring disputing parties together to work out solutions.  They specifically do not advocate any position or try to persuade parties to do one thing or another, but they typically will work to identify the core issues underlying disputes and try to craft creative solutions.

The ADR profession is still really in its infancy and very little professional structure exists for practitioners in many states.  Virtually anyone may provide services as a mediator.  However, licensure is offered in many states, some with training requirements and others merely requiring the oversight of another licensed mediator for a time.  Interestingly, few states will forbid you to offer services if you are not state licensed.  For example, a sample of the Virginia mediation code and rules is available here:http://www.courts.state.va.us/drs/main.htm

My experience is that effective mediators have taken advantage of some specific training because the role of a neutral facilitator is quite different.  Lawyers and therapists may have to retool their natural professional approach and behave in some counter-intuitive ways.  Quite a range of training is offered from Master's degrees to specific certificate training(such as ADR in health care settings, for example).

The best online resources are found here:http://www.mediate.com/

and here:http://adrr.com/

Other excellent information resources may be found at these professional organization sites:

American Bar Association:http://www.abanet.org/dispute/home.html

American Arbitration Association:http://www.adr.org/

Seminars on ADR are likely offered through law schools or through local court systems in your location.  Be sure to check out the ABA site.

The truth is that it is very difficult to "start out" as a mediator or arbitrator.  Virtually anyone who gets into the field permanently as a career has come from some other field and is able to rely on related expertise.  Typically professors, attorneys, people with state department experience, therapists, and consultants have the credibility and financial resources to make a career viable, but almost all of us begin mediation work relying on income from our primary expertise.  Typically a new mediator gets trained and begins a practice by getting on the state or local court system list.  However, there are usually dozens of more experienced people on the list and you have to just sit there and see what happens.  Other than the yellow pages, it is not usually cost-effective to advertise(except divorce mediation).  My primary cases come by referrals from colleagues or lawyers that know my work over the years and trust me.  Rates are about $150/hour.  Only about 1 out of 5 referrals actually become cases I hear and bill out -- as I typically spend time qualifying the parties individually on the phone before agreeing to mediate the case.  

I can tell you that mediation is by far some of the most rewarding work I do and it makes a big difference in people's lives.  It has never been, however, a source of significant income.  The big money in mediation is in teaching, or in areas like environmental mediation, peacemaking(diplomacy), health care, insurance, human resource, or other large institutional or governmental settings. This usually is just another job -- but at least rewarding if successful.

Some career paths are emerging in some states through local government and court systems.  These jobs are typically around court-ordered mediation for divorces, smaller business disputes, and often around victim-offender mediation.  They are usually staff level jobs that do not pay tremendous salaries.  Some states and private foundations sponsor and fund quasi-governmental mediation "centers" in a non-profit model.  These are few and far between.

If you are committed to this career path, I would encourage you to spend alot of time up-front in as many training venues as possible.  Numerous groups sponsor seminars and certificate programs in everything from health care to military mediation.  If you put a serious oar in the water and jump out there full-speed, you can make things happen, but it will take time.

As far as your questions about independence, your instincts are right in that you have tremendous freedom to do what you want, when you want, if you want to practice privately.  If you become connected to the American Arbitration Association, or other body of professionals, though, you would have less flexibility.  I rarely hear of arbiters turning down cases, as they are hard to come by anyway, and so you have to be prepared to work whenever the work appears. International arbitration work can be very tough to qualify for since there are often some requirements by countries in order to be qualified, and often this includes language proficiency.  Add to this the tendency of the opposite party distrusting the arbiter belonging to one or the other country and you end up with very few actual international cases(outside of State department diplomacy) that get heard.  The key here is to identify people successfully doing this work now and figuring out how to get mentored to learn the ropes.

Alternative dispute resolution work places you in the very center of conflict, often intractable, seething, emotional conflict.  Compared to typical office politics it is the fire rather than the frying pan.  There can be intense pressure and often hostility to you personally.  Be clear that this work leads you INTO rather than away from these hostile situations.  In terms of your "work being checked", of course you are not typically micro-managed during sessions, but the results of your work will be picked apart by everyone ad nauseum and you can end up with some political fall-out to deal with from angry participants.  

Hope my comments are useful.

Feel free to follow up with any other questions.

Good luck to you!
Raimundo
 
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Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:38 pm

Autonomy In Law Profession

Postby Burt » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:38 am

Hi Tim,  I'm writing to find out how much independent freedom there is when working as an arbitrator or just in the field of law?  I am in my late twenties and have worked in both education and corporate fields.  I find the inter-office politics troublesome and sometimes outright unbearable, especially in education.

What I would like to do is to become an independent consultant and help 2 of my friends expand their businesses overseas.  Thus, I am interested in arbitration and international business law.

My question is based on the assumption that I should work at another firm to gain experience so that I can better help my friends in expanding their businesses. So, if I may ask, how much inter-office politics do you face?(what are some typical red tapes?) and how much independent freedom would you say you have in your work(must one check everything with a superior before action)?

Thanks,

K
Burt
 
Posts: 48
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:18 pm


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