Is mediation ready for its close-up?

On the other hand, as someone in his 40’s (what with those annoying aches and pains and the temptation to tell anyone who will half-listen about them), I can say that sometimes our field feels a bit stodgy, and I grow weary of some of the same old arguments that I myself contribute to.  For years, we’ve been talking about how we need an analog to the “Got Milk” campaign, and how we’re just “one high profile case away” from taking the world by storm.  And I’ve written about how we spend a lot of time dickering over this model vs that model, instead of being a unified field.

But!  Lately, I’ve been feeling a level of energy and creativity that I haven’t felt in years. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but here are a few thoughts.

1.  The first generation of school peer mediators is all growed up now!  We now have Yodas and Luke Skywalkers, and this is increasingly a multi-generational field.  We combine the wisdom and knowledge of our founders with the energy and creativity of the emerging generation of leaders in the field.  (Lest this sound ageist, there are plenty of creative babyboomers and wise whippersnappers out there).

2.  They’ve run out of lawyer and cop shows, so we’re on TV and in the movies!  For the first time in history, there’s a mediation trifecta on screens big and small, to wit:

–An acclaimed, Ocscar-buzzed documentary, The Interrupters, which takes mediation to the streets, showing that we can be fearless, fierce and in your face.  In a good way.

–A reality show, Confronting, on Empress Oprah’s network, about victim-offender mediation.  It’s similar in tone and title to Confrontations, a short-lived show on A&E several years ago (lost in the network’s transition from Hitler Channel to Air Your Dirty Laundry Channel).

–A drama/dramedy, Fairly Legal, on USA, in which a scrappy reformed lawyer mediates in Louboutin stiletto heels, which are very expensive because the soles are painted red with the blood of unicorns. (She also blackmails and coerces clients. Please don’t do this).  I wasn’t a fan of the show until a client called us and asked us for help, having googled “mediation” and “New York” after watching.  Now I’m quite pleased it’s been renewed.

No sitcom yet, but mediation makes regular cameos in the Office, 30 Rock, Modern Family and other shows…though we’re generally portrayed as buffoons, corporate lackeys, meddlers, or touchy-feely nebbishes.  Better than no publicity, eh?

3.  The economy still sucks.  Many communities (including every county in New York State) offer mediation free of charge, which is like the best bargain ever.  And even if you pay for mediation, you’ll still shell out far fewer sawbucks than you would to a lawyer.  The public somehow has still not figured this out, as measured by many mediation center caseloads…but according to US News & World Report, mediation is one of the best career choices of 2011, because fewer people can afford lawyers.

So, while I haven’t fully vanquished my onset middle-aged curmudgeonliness, on balance I feel pretty, pretty good about this being our time to shine.


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