Since the closure of the Los Angeles Superior Court ADR Program, a challenge has arisen for mediators: how to connect with those in need of dispute resolution services? The Los Angeles Superior Court ADR Program served as a way for mediators to connect with potential clients and build their mediation practices. Once the ADR Program closed and the court did away with the requirement that all litigants must attempt mediation, it became increasingly difficult for many conflict resolution professionals to secure steady work.
There is little doubt that the peaceful resolution of conflicts, specifically mediation, is important and necessary work. The high volume of cases handled by the LASC ADR Program indicates the need for mediation services, but with the Program now closed there is a disconnect between those who need the service and those who provide it.
Mediation Awareness Week is an opportunity for mediators and providers to work together to educate the public and the bar about the many quality mediation services available in Southern California. As a hub of the Southern California mediation community, the SCMA, along with various ADR organizations, associations, non-profits, private panels, and educational institutions, is celebrating Mediation Awareness Week by hosting a variety of events – which are listed on our Mediation Awareness Week Calendar.
Our goal during Mediation Awareness Week is to to remind our community leaders, business leaders, the legal community, and the public at large of the important work that peacemakers do. That way, when a conflict does arise, parties know that they can take advantage of the range of exceptional mediation services available in Southern California.
If you are interested in becoming involved in the SCMA and working with us to raise the profile of mediation in Southern California, I encourage you to join an SCMA committee and help us in our efforts to connect those who are in need of mediation services with quality providers.
Robyn Weinstein is President of the Southern California Mediation Association and a fellow and adjunct professor for the Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
It is truly an honor to become the next president of the Southern California Mediation Association, an organization which I credit for introducing me to the myriad of unique dispute resolution opportunities available in Southern California. As a result of my membership in this organization, I have obtained teaching opportunities, employment, training, and of course, many chances to give back by volunteering my conflict resolution services to the Southern California community.
I write about my own experience as a member of this organization because one of the most common frustrations I hear from my colleagues and fellow mediators is that it often feels impossible to find paid work. If you feel this way, I can assure you that you are not alone. In fact, Alyson Carrel of the Center on Negotiation and Mediation at Northwestern Law School has created a wonderful resource in her blog, entitled ADR as First Career, which is dedicated to inspiring those who feel that making a go of a career in dispute resolution is just not possible.
Throughout the past year, the Board and committees of the SCMA, led by the tireless Joe Markowitz, have taken on several initiatives with the goal of increasing the visibility of our profession and helping our members to find paid opportunities. These initiatives include the Voluntary Mediator Certification Initiative, which aims to enhance the credibility and accountability of the profession, and the Outreach Committee, which aims to build relationships and raise awareness about the SCMA with the various consumers of mediation in Southern California. Over the next year, I plan to continue to support these efforts as we work to connect a community of skilled, passionate and dedicated mediation professionals to those in need of their services.
The SCMA Communications Committee, led by Victoria Grey, has rebuilt the SCMA website, and manages the newly updated Select-A-Mediator Directory. The SCMA also offers a mentorship program, led by Wendy Kramer, which provides new mediators with a rare chance to observe private mediation sessions led by successful commercial mediators. We are also fortunate to have a wonderful resource in our industrious executive director, Anne Sawyer, who is available to work with our board, committees, and members to support and execute our many new and exciting initiatives.
I hope you will join us for the study groups, professional development series, institutes, conferences, committee meetings, and social events we will be having over the next year. Be sure to check our website frequently for updates, and to look at our community calendar which lists mediation-related opportunities throughout Southern California.
It is through participation in the SCMA community that our members see the greatest rewards. Please join me and the SCMA board of directors as we continue to promote excellence in the practice of mediation, and work to raise community awareness of mediation through education, dialogue, and outreach.
Although I’m looking forward to joining the distinguished ranks of SCMA’s past presidents, I am going to miss the exciting job of leading this organization. It involved more travel that I expected, including an unprecedented four trips to San Diego to support programs we put on there. (Thank you, Hass Sadeghi.) And a few trips to Orange County, where our ace team (Therese Gray, Norma Aronne, Sam Konugres, and Rosemarie McElhaney), organized two programs under the SCMA banner, as well as helping put on the OC Mediation Conference in March.
I had to do plenty of driving within Los Angeles as well, to attend SCMA’s employment program, our second annual summer mixer, and several outreach programs with local bar associations. SCMA also put on several business development programs and programs dealing with bias, and a peer mediation program. Not to mention last November’s highly successful fall conference in Malibu entitled “Crisis and Opportunity,” in which we honored Seeds of Peace, the Los Angeles Police Department and Professor Marco Turk. (Thanks to Robyn Weinstein, Jason Harper, Shazi Rastegar, and many others who organized a full slate of programs this year. Also thanks to Maurice Attie, who helped develop a new system for choosing the panels for this year’s conference.) I also enjoyed serving as an SCMA ambassador on side trips to Miami for the ABA Dispute Resolution Conference, as well as to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and to Stanford University to learn more about online dispute resolution.
This year we expanded SCMA’s certification initiative to start forming a consortium of organizations that will lead the drive to develop and administer a meaningful credential for California mediators. (Barbara Brown and Jack Goetz have been doing tremendous work spearheading this effort for SCMA.)
We have seen tremendous growth and interest in expanding SCMA’s outreach programs, from teaming up with local bar associations to provide assistance to attorneys and litigants in navigating the private market for mediators, to developing new programs and materials that we plan to take to community organizations, business groups and the broader public. (Thanks to Floyd Siegal for leading this effort.) We continue to improve and promote the SCMA Select a Mediator directory, an important benefit to members and a useful tool for the public. And the SCMA Education Foundation, led by Maria Simpson, has re-defined its role this year to promote mediation among the public.
In conjunction with SCMA’s statewide certification initiative, and our expansion of programming and outreach activities to all parts of Southern California, we have formed a committee to study the re-structuring and potential re-branding of the organization to help us better serve a wider region, potentially the entire state. (Thanks to Mark Ameli for taking the lead on this important issue.)
I don’t want to omit mention of SCMA local study groups, as well as the very successful mentor program which my predecessor Wendy Kramer initiated and has graciously agreed to continue leading for another year. And I want to recognize some other behind-the-scenes work that keeps SCMA going, such as Stephanie Maloney’s able assistance with keeping the books, and Wendy Forrester’s involvement with the membership committee.
SCMA’s advocacy efforts have included continued dialogue with the courts to expand opportunities for mediators, and monitoring issues of concern to our members. Recently SCMA filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to help protect mediation confidentiality. (Thanks to Mike Young, Jill Switzer and Phyllis Pollack for assisting me with that project.)
While doing all of that, we also entirely re-vamped and updated the SCMA website, to make it easier to list events and disseminate information about all things mediation. (Join me in congratulating Victoria Gray and Anne Sawyer for a fantastic job implementing our new and improved website.)
I hope to see our members get even more involved in 2015 to help SCMA continue to create more opportunities for mediation and mediators!
In Southern California, we face significant geographical challenges. SCMA purports to serve an area stretching perhaps 50,000 square miles, holding more than 20 million people, and comprising as many as eight metropolitan areas, depending on which ones you count. It’s not only the long distances and heavy traffic that can frustrate efforts to bring people together from Santa Barbara County to San Diego and also to Riverside and San Bernardino, it’s also a problem of attitudes and cultures. I’ve heard people who live in the San Fernando Valley say they avoid downtown Los Angeles almost as a matter of principle. People in LA are suspicious of those who reside behind the Orange Curtain, and Orange County residents likewise often distrust their neighbors to the north. LA’s Westsiders don’t understand Eastsiders, and vice versa. People who live inland seem far removed from those on the coast. The court systems in Riverside, San Bernardino, or Santa Barbara confront different challenges and rules from those in other distinct regions. Los Angeles County is so large that it sucks attention away from other areas, but it still comprises only about half of the population we try to represent.
This year, the SCMA board has begun some purposeful discussions about how to better serve this incredibly large and diverse region. Board members are united in a desire to expand the organization’s membership, and attract more members from all of the far-flung reaches of the SoCal region and beyond. To do that, we have to offer programs accessible to people from these different areas, and we have to respond to their varying needs.
Members may not be aware of how much we have already accomplished to expand SCMA’s reach. We have held more programs in Orange County and in San Diego County this year than in previous years, and this year is far from over. We have continued efforts to attract speakers to our fall conference from around the entire country. We have launched an initiative for mediator certification that is intended to be implemented statewide. We are expanding outreach efforts to inform local bar associations and the general public about the availability of mediation services. And we have formed a committee to study structural and branding changes that may be helpful in allowing SCMA to better serve all of Southern California, and perhaps the entire state. Specifically, what is currently up for debate is whether the organization should adopt some form of chapter model to support future growth, and also to what extent we should expand our reach beyond Southern California.
SCMA aims to be recognized as the pre-eminent professional association that supports every working mediator in the region and the state. And also as the go-to resource for anyone interested in learning more about mediation and about putting their mediation skills to use. And in addition as an effective advocacy organization that promotes the use of mediation to resolve all manner of conflict. It’s been challenging but also exciting to lead an organization with such ambitious goals.
I am always interested in hearing from members about ways that SCMA can better serve the needs of Southern California and beyond. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these topics with me or any of our other board members.
I hope visitors to this website are as excited as I am to see all of the changes we have made here. You have probably already noticed the streamlined and updated layout. We hope readers find the look of the home page more appealing, and also find it easier to find the information you are looking for. But look below the surface, because like an iceberg, most of the upgrades to the website are not immediately visible. To give you a better idea of those changes, let me start with a little background, and then give a guided tour.
SCMA’s website upgrade has been a long time in the making. This project started over a year ago, when we invested in new software that helps us better organize our member database. Those changes were designed to accomplish two things: First to provide more fully automated information about membership, thus better enabling us to track membership changes and handle registration for programs. Second to power SCMA’s Select a Mediator directory, created last year in response to the closure of the LA Superior Court’s ADR program. The directory continues to provide a strong platform to assist the public in finding mediators, and to assist members in promoting their services.
Phase II of the website and database upgrade, which we started more than six months ago, amounted to a top-to-bottom revamping of the entire contents of this site, bringing it current with the latest versions of the WordPress platform. In the process, we re-wrote substantially all of the material on the site, cleaned up and brought up to date lots of stale information, created much new content, and added important new features. Browse around the site to get an idea of the extent of these changes. I will highlight a few of these changes here.
Try clicking on our brand-new calendar feature. Users can choose to display events on the calendar in a monthly format, or in a list format. Even more amazingly, this new feature allows organizers of outside events to list them on the SCMA website themselves. By providing this interactive resource to the community, our hope is that SCMA becomes the go-to bulletin board for mediators and anyone else interested in mediation in California. In the past, we have done a pretty good job of promoting programs by bar groups, mediation provider organizations, and educational and training organizations, but it was a time-consuming task, and we didn’t always have all the information we wanted to make available. Now, with the help of other organizations interested in mediation, we can do a better job of informing mediators and the public about available programs put on by SCMA and by others.
Next, take a look at the resources available under the professional development tab. We now host a wealth of information, not only about SCMA’s study groups, mentorship program, fall conference and other activities, but also about degree and certificate programs and job opportunities for mediators. Once again, our aim is to gather all available resources in these areas, so that this website becomes the place to go to find out what’s happening with mediation in the region.
We have also added a “Writer’s Corner” feature to the site, which will allow members and others to publish their thoughts on issues of interest to the mediation community. We hope members will take advantage of this feature, and add lots more content to the site.
On our old site, only the most recent few posts were readily accessible. Lots of information was buried or difficult to find. On the new website, the latest mediation news is still most prominent, but readers will also be able to navigate down to archived material more easily. The site is also organized in such a way as to make all of our resources, such as the Select a Mediator directory, easier to find and use.
The site is designed to be more inviting to members of the public wishing to learn how to use mediation to help resolve their business or family disputes, while at the same time categorizing and displaying information mainly of interest to members. Thus, we hope the new website exemplifies the dual goals of the organization: to promote the use of mediation by the broader community, and to assist members in furthering their professional interests.
None of these dramatic improvements would have been possible without the extraordinary dedication and hard work of the communications committee led by the indefatigable Victoria Gray, the project management skills of executive director Anne Sawyer, and the creativity of SCMA’s new website designer Blake Miller and his team at www.MITOStudios.com. Thanks to all of them for their contributions. I hope members enjoy these changes, and that we can continue to build great things on this new platform.
It’s that time of year when much of our membership needs to renew, and those who have not yet joined should consider doing so. For those wondering about the benefits of membership in the premier organization for and about mediation in Southern California, here are some reasons for signing up now:
SCMA’s Select a Mediator Directory: Members who meet the qualifications are entitled to a free listing, providing lawyers and the public with a searchable database of mediators in the region. With the demise of the LA Superior Court’s mediation panels, this is one of the best resources left to find mediators. With our revamped website about to launch, the directory will be more prominent and useful to the public. It’s one place mediators in Southern California need to be.
SCMA’s certification initiative: SCMA is seeking support from other organizations devoted to mediation to create a uniform certification standard recognized in the State of California, that would enable well-trained mediators to add a “CM,” for certified mediator, to their credentials. Such recognition will provide a tool for consumers of mediation services to obtain quality assurance, and a tool for trained mediators to distinguish themselves.
SCMA’s outreach: SCMA is putting on a series of programs for local bar associations to help attorneys initiate conversations about mediation, choose a mediator, and prepare for mediation. SCMA has also started other training programs for attorneys about negotiation, mediation, and collaborative practice. SCMA is also planning new programs to educate the broader public about the benefits of mediation.
SCMA’s training and fellowship: Last year SCMA launched a new mentorship program to assist mediators in building a practice. This is in addition to a number of study groups SCMA has sponsored, which provide a place for mediators to get together and discuss issues of common concern.
SCMA’s programs: With all of these efforts to expand opportunities for mediators, SCMA has not neglected its core mission of putting on programs for our members. Far from it. Our fall conference has expanded in scope, continuing to serve as the premier event of its kind in the region, and the quality and quantity of other programming throughout the year has only increased.
Why should you join or renew now? Because your membership dues enable SCMA to carry out all of these efforts for the benefit of our members and the broader community. The larger our membership, the more resources we have to devote to activities that strengthen the practice of mediation in Southern California. The growth members may have noticed in the quality and quantity of SCMA’s activities recently is a direct result of robust membership growth.
Who should join SCMA? Only experienced mediators who want to keep up with their colleagues and stay informed, new mediators who want to learn more skills and find new opportunities, all those interested in learning about and applying mediation techniques in their work of whatever nature, and anyone who has ever dealt with any sort of conflict in their life. SCMA can help you with all of that!
It’s easy to renew right on this website. Just click on the button that says, “JOIN NOW.” If you need assistance, call Executive Director Anne Sawyer, and she’ll get you renewed quickly over the phone – 866-440-7880.
2013 turned out to be an exciting year for our organization, one so rich with challenges that we titled our fall conference “Crisis and Opportunity.” This coming year, I am looking forward to fresh challenges, and to building on the work many members have done over the last several years to create a stronger organization. If I had to choose a theme for the year, that theme would be growth. The idea of expanding our organization’s capabilities, size and focus to reach a broader community underlies all of our plans.
We are re-building our website to better communicate with our members, and assist the public in learning more about mediation. The new website will be more inviting to lawyers searching for mediators, and to the general public, providing introductory materials about the benefits of mediation, and improved access to SCMA’s Select a Mediator Directory.
We are carrying forward SCMA’s certification initiative to educational institutions, mediation organizations, and mediation service providers, to build interest in the idea of creating a credential recognized statewide, that will assist the public in finding qualified mediators, and assist trained mediators in marketing their services.
We are expanding a program SCMA initiated last year to address local bar associations about mediation, including tips on initiating conversations about mediation, finding an appropriate mediator, and preparing for mediation.
We have launched a new mentorship program under the direction of past President Wendy Kramer, sure to be valuable to assist people in building mediation practices.
We are growing our membership by creating programs and benefits of interest to experienced mediators, aspiring mediators, and students, as well as non-mediators who use conflict resolution skills in whatever their chosen field. We are also working to expand SCMA’s membership geographically.
We also plan to build on the advocacy training program created for SCMA’s 2013 conference by designing more programs for lawyers interested in learning negotiation and mediation advocacy skills, and by supporting the collaborative law movement in both family law and civil law.
Our energetic programs committee, under the leadership of incoming vice-president Robyn Weinstein, has already laid out an ambitious slate of programs for the coming year. Keep returning to this site for lots of news sure to be of interest to our members and well beyond.
What a rewarding and busy experience this year has been serving as your President. I am thrilled by all that we have accomplished, and pleased to report to you that we are now over 400 members strong with over 230 in attendance at the amazing 2013 Annual SCMA Conference. SCMA is a thriving, growing organization, meeting the needs of its diverse membership. We have so many hardworking board and committee members, too numerous to individually thank for all they have done for SCMA and the mediation community. Thank you for your contributions and your tireless work. And thank you to Anne Sawyer, our executive director; she has done a truly remarkable job this year!
The year began with the dire news of budget cuts and the closure of the LASC-ADR Department. In response, the SCMA made the bold decision to brainstorm ways in which SCMA could help the court and its members. Our Board formed the Ad Hoc Committee on the Closure of the LASC-ADR Department which jumped in head first by conducting a Town Hall meeting held at the Santa Monica Library. After many months of collaboration and careful planning, the SCMA Select-A-Mediator Directory was born.
While the work of the Ad Hoc Committee was being done, we held numerous study groups all over Southern California, and featured various presenters at our monthly Professional Development Series (PDS) programs and institutes. Kathleen Ronald entertained and informed us with “The Seven Deadly Sins of Networking.” Bill Eddy gave us a fascinating presentation on “High Conflict Mediation,” leaving everyone clamoring for more, and Professor Lela P. Love and her panel amazed us at the half-day Institute, “The Mind of the Mediator.” Both the Real Estate and Employment Institutes in the springtime featured exceptional speakers and were of the highest caliber. In June, the SCMA was proud to co-sponsor the Marina Collaborative Practice Group’s first “Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice Training.”
The SCMA Outreach Committee organized the Select-A-Mediator Launch Party in July, which drew an unprecedented number of attendees including consumers of mediation services. A follow-up training on the Select-A-Mediator site in August filled a classroom with SCMA members who successfully completed and launched their new Select-A-Mediator profiles.
In September, we again gathered as a community and welcomed former SCMA President Jan Schau as she presented us with real life lessons learned from her year of journaling which culminated in the publication of her book, “View From the Middle of the Road: A Mediator’s Perspective on Life, Conflict and Human Interaction.”
In October, the SCMA Outreach Committee joined forces with the Beverly Hills Bar Association and filled its conference room to capacity with a program entitled, “Resolving Cases Without the Court’s ADR Program. What Lawyers do Now?” Plans are underway to duplicate this program for many other organizations in an effort to educate consumers of mediation on how to find quality, cost-effective dispute resolution solutions and effectively mediate disputes.
Rounding out the year, we learned many lessons at the last PDS of 2013, ”Peer Mediation, Bringing Conflict Resolution to Schools.” about the skills mediators can teach school age children to encourage peaceful conflict resolution in their schools, homes and communities. Take a look at the 2013 on-line Conference Journal to see the amazing year of work completed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Mediation Certification as well as a wealth of other materials from the Annual Conference at: http://www.scmediation.org/2013-scma-annual-fall-conference/2013-scma-online-conference-journal/
Our website continues to provide a wealth of information as we strive to make it the “go-to” place for information regarding trainings, programs, volunteer and job opportunities for our members. Plans are underway for a website redo with even more content and capabilities in 2014.
In thinking back, I am truly amazed by the amount of work we accomplished and feel tremendous pride in the SCMA community. We welcome your involvement! Take a look at the numerous SCMA committees at: http://www.scmediation.org/about/committees/ and you will surely find a committee that is just right for you. And if you have thoughts regarding any new projects or committees, please feel free to contact me. I encourage you to share your ideas, inspire us and make new connections as we continue to grow and prosper in this supportive SCMA community.
Thank you to the more than 250 folks who attended the SCMA’s Select-A-Mediator Launch party at the beautiful Sofitel Hotel. The weather was perfect for our outdoor mixer as individual SCMA volunteers demonstrated the directory on iPad’s and laptops. We welcomed old and new SCMA members, numerous ADR leaders, leaders and members of bar associations, and many professionals who use mediation services. The response to the new directory was overwhelmingly positive. We could not have put this event together without the help of an extremely hardworking, diligent crew of SCMA volunteers, Floyd Siegal, Maurice Attie, Guy Mizrahi, Julie Ware, Robyn Weinstein, Jason Harper, Barbara Brown, Shazi Rastegar, Mark Ameli, Joe Markowitz, Hass Sadeghi, Victoria Gray, Sean Judge, Terri Lubaroff, Sara Houghton and our executive director Anne Sawyer. And a huge thank you to all of the past and present members and leaders in our community who spread the word including our local bar association supporters: Beverly Hills Bar, San Fernando Valley Bar, Orange County Bar and the Santa Monica Bar! And a thank-you to Jan Schau for donating two of her books to our raffle.
And now, the news you’ve been waiting for….
The Winner of the iPad mini raffle was: Patrick Martin, Psychiatric Social Worker, LA County Department of Mental Health
And the winner of the 1-year membership to SCMA was: Susan J. Field, Esq., Musick Peeler & Garrett
We are continuing to tweak the Directory with all of the great feedback that has been provided and we urge you to upload your profile if you have not already done so. Be sure to be patient; after you have hit the “Save” button, do not navigate off of the screen until you receive the message that you have successfully updated your profile, otherwise your work will not be saved. We will be hosting a PDS meeting in August to assist members in creating and uploading their profiles as well as marketing tips.
I look forward to seeing you in September, if not sooner, at our next Professional Development Seminar featuring former SCMA President Jan Schau and her fantastic new book, “View From the Middle of the Road: A Mediator’s Perspective on Life, Conflict and Human Interaction”. Also coming up in October will be a PDS on Peer Mediation and of course, Save The Date for our 25th Annual Conference on November 2, 2013 entitled Crisis and Opportunity: Expanding the Field of Conflict Resolution.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Wendy W. Kramer, Esq. President, Southern CA Mediation Association
As summer approaches, things are heating up not only on the beaches but behind the scenes at SCMA! The SCMA’s Fall Conference Programs Committee is busily working on the 25th Annual SCMA Conference at Pepperdine, entitled, Crisis and Opportunity: Expanding the Field of Conflict Resolution. Save the date – November 2, 2013, and join us in what promises to be a memorable day, which will include an Advanced Track, an Advocacy Track and the Second Annual Mediation Fair, welcoming participation by all of the Southern California’s community mediation providers!
The title of the 25th Annual Conference, Crisis and Opportunity, is apt in light of the unexpected closure of the Los Angeles Superior Court’s ADR Department this month, which has afforded SCMA the opportunity to contribute new solutions, not only to help SCMA members to continue to find opportunities to practice mediation, but to also assist litigants and the courts to reduce anticipated long delays and backlogs, by providing access to quality and affordable dispute resolution. The SCMA’s searchable “Select-A-Mediator” Directory has been designed by our members to allow consumers to choose their mediator based on a variety of searchable criteria including subject-matter expertise, background and experience level, and fee structure, among others. We are excitedly putting the finishing touches on the Directory! In the next few weeks, all current SCMA members will be receiving an e-mail invitation and directions to log on and upload their profiles to the Directory. Those members who wish to be listed in the Select-A-Mediator directory must certify that they have taken at least a 40 hour course in mediation or the equivalent, or were already members of the LASC Superior Court Panel.
The Directory should prove to be an invaluable resource for the courts, attorneys and all ADR consumers looking to find mediators based upon substantive background, geography and fee structure, including mediators willing to offer their services at reduced rates. We are continuing to offer SCMA’s assistance during this time of budget crisis through meetings with both the Civil and Family Law Court’s Judges and representatives of both the plaintiff and defense bars.
In order to introduce SCMA members and the public to the “Select-A-Mediator” Directory, SCMA is hosting a Select-A-Mediator Summer Launch Party on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., at the Sofitel Hotel, located at 8555 Beverly Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA. All attorneys, mediators, and other professionals are invited to attend. Admission will be free and there will be a no-host bar, appetizers, live demonstrations of the “Select-a-Mediator” Directory, and a raffle for an iPad Mini. Please help spread the word! We hope to see you there!! All my best,