Convening A Mediation

Convening a mediation involves getting often recalcitrant parties to participate in the mediation. It is both absolutely critical to the mediation process and often the most difficult part of resolving a dispute. Convening a mediation, when fewer than all the parties have requested mediation, as is often the case, is a mediation itself. The process of convening a mediation in such a case is such a difficult part of the mediation process that some providers report that they have a lower success rate at convening the mediation than they do at resolving the actual dispute once the parties are at the table. Several studies which examined the rate of refusal to initiate mediation in interpersonal disputes found that parties refused mediation services in close to 50% of the cases.

Given the high refusal rates, what can a mediator do to successfully convene a mediation? After talking with the initiator of the mediation, the mediator should contact each of the other parties. A letter to each responding party may be the best approach, explaining the mediation process and the advantages of mediation over litigation and other dispute resolution processes. A phone call can then be initiated, explaining the mediation process to the responding party(ies) in person and answering questions. The mediator can also offer to meet with responding parties personally. The convening process will often need to be customized to meet the specific needs of the parties and their representatives.

The mediator must accomplish a number of tasks in order to convene the mediation: (1) contact the disputing parties; (2) build credibility for the mediator personally and for the process of mediation; (3) establish rapport with the disputants; and, (4) educate participants about the mediation process. The ultimate goal in the convening stage is to create a willingness on the part of the parties to enter into the mediation process. In other words, a mediator hoping to convene a mediation must find a way to gain commitment from the disputing parties to mediate.