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How to Open a Mediation Firm

by Sam Ashe-Edmunds, studioD

A law degree used to be a ticket to a long, lucrative, successful career. With law firms no longer providing “untouchable” status to partners, this has led to a more competitive profession and more competition among JDs. Moving into mediation as a new career or as a supplement to your current practice can help you boost your income and weather changes in the profession.

Contact your state’s bar association to determine what procedures you must follow to become a mediator. Complete the necessary steps to qualify as a mediator and open a practice.

Conduct market research into what your market currently has in the way of mediators. Visit the websites of your state and local bar associations and look for links to sponsors and services directories. Visit the websites of potential competitors you find.

Take a course in mediation, writes James E. McGuire, an alternative dispute resolution professional with JAMS, in “Twelve Tips for Launching a Mediation Practice” on the ABA website. Increase your knowledge of mediation by reading credible books and white papers, he suggests. Volunteering to mediate some cases as you launch your business not only gets you experience, but also helps you build your referral list.

Follow the basics steps any company launching a product or service does, including writing a business plan. Review the “Four Ps” of marketing by evaluating your product, price, place of practice and promotional methods. Follow these four steps to develop a brand, or mediation niche; set your prices based on what the market is currently paying; define your mediation area; and create a marketing campaign.

Determine who will join your firm, if you want partners, and in what areas you will specialize. Hold a meeting to discuss your plans and designate who will do what preliminary work to help launch the business. Create a partnership agreement.

Contact colleagues to get feedback on your rates. You might be able to charge higher rates, based on your specialty area or how well known your firm’s partners are. You might need to lowball in the beginning to generate references and give clients a chance to get to know you as you build your book of business.

Create a marketing plan that focuses on keeping you in front of a targeted potential client list. Write a list of your closest contacts who will get special marketing attention. Purchase mailing lists to announce your practice with a brochure and a letter of introduction. Contact the bar and legal professional associations in your service area to find out about advertising and sponsorship opportunities. Attend their conferences and annual meetings, purchase booths at their trade shows, speak at their seminars and write articles for their newsletters.

Create a website with your practice details, biographies of your mediators and client referral list. Hire a social media expert to help you rise to the top of search engine results when people look for mediators in your service area. Look for professionals who have search engine optimization experience, which is the practice of creating websites and social media sites in ways that boost search engine rankings.

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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