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Conflict Intervention Services

Guidelines for Starting and Conducting a Mediation with the Conflict Intervention Service of The Bar Association of San Francisco

In an effort to achieve a uniformity of process in Conflict Intervention Service (CIS) mediations to best orient participants at the beginning of a formal mediation, the following guidelines have been developed for the program. Thank you in advance for consideration and incorporation of these points as you conduct mediations for the Conflict Intervention Service.

Further, as an overarching guideline, we recommend that you start mediation sessions in separate caucuses, unless prior evaluation clearly points to the utility of starting in joint session. The intense fear common among our participants cannot be overstated. Should you need it, please do not hesitate to seek input from CIS mediation counsel at any time.

The following points may be expressed in your own words to open a mediation and orient the participants:

  1. Introduction: Introduce all participants. Clarify the roles of each participant, and inquire about their intentions and goals for an outcome.

  2. Voluntary Process: Remind participants in the opening to a CIS mediation that mediation is voluntary and consensual. The process requires their consent to participate, and to proceed throughout the entirety of the mediation.

  3. The Role of the Mediator: Remind participants of the role of the mediator as one who helps participants hear one another, ensures that everyone feels free to discuss whatever is important to them, and assists in creating a solution to the dispute or conflict that brought everyone together. The mediator makes the session “safe,” meaning respectful and constructive. The mediator is not a judge, and does not “decide” the case, but is a neutral party with no stake in the outcome.

  4. The Role of the CIS Social Worker: Explain the role of the CIS social worker who supports all parties in the mediation, and may follow up with referrals to resources to help address difficult issues after the mediation concludes.

  5. Confidentiality: By law, nothing said during mediation may be used in court, and may not be disclosed outside of the mediation except with the consent of all parties. Confidentiality does not apply to violent acts or threats of violence, which will be reported to proper authorities.  The terms of an agreement after a mediation concludes, however, are not confidential for purposes of outside support, guidance and enforcement.

  6. Communication: During the conference, it will be important to be respectful in your language and not interrupt when somebody is speaking. Each participant should strive to do the best job they can to listen carefully to other participants, even though that can be challenging at times. If someone feels like interrupting, write down your thoughts instead.

  7. Time Limitation: Remind the participants that the session is  a three-hour period of time today to seek a resolution, but that a second session can be arranged if needed to achieve an agreed upon solution.

  8. Caucusing: Any participant can request a private conversation with the mediator or the CIS Social Worker during the session.  Let the participants know that if they  feel uncomfortable, they can let you know, and a break will be taken.

  9. Logistics: Explain that participants are free to take breaks as needed, and go over other logistics, including how the session will unfold.

  10. Settlement Agreement: Remind the participants that everyone must agree in order to create a written agreement. The agreement is not confidential and may be used in future mediations or court proceedings. CIS agreements should focus on practical solutions to problems, and avoid overly legalistic framing. While the CIS social worker may provide post-mediation aftercare, putting specific CIS aftercare intentions in the agreement is to be avoided.

  11. Thank you: Thank the participants for giving us the opportunity to help them resolve their dispute and for their courage to participate.