Becoming a CMS Volunteer

Being a volunteer mediator can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Every case brings a new set of problems that needs solving, feelings that need calming, relationships that need repairing. Not every mediation ends in agreement. But those that do often leave us with a feeling of satisfaction that is uniquely rewarding and different from any other volunteer experience you may have had in the past.

Having said that, not everyone is cut out for being a volunteer mediator. Here is a list of qualities that good mediators tend to have:

1) A strong sense of empathy with the problems, situations, and feelings of others;
2) The ability to stay neutral even when your heart clearly wants to side with one party or the other;
3) A non-judgmental attitude, as free of stereotypes and generalities as possible;
4) The ability to take yourself out of the equation. You may have had a similar problem as your clients, but your
focus must always be on helping them reach their own conclusions and their own solutions;
5) Punctuality. If you have a habit of being late or missing appointments, this is NOT the volunteer experience
for you!
6) Good writing skills. You should be able to summarize issues and solutions clearly and succinctly. Since a
signed agreement is the same as a legal contract, learning to write good agreements is an essential skill for
a mediator.
7) A natural curiosity that makes you eager to continue learning how to be a better mediator.

If you have these qualities plus a calm, approachable personality, you are ready to consider taking our mediation training. Our training is delivered by trainers approved by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) using a SCAO-approved curriculum.

We ask quite a lot of our volunteers by way of training. The 40-hour Civil Mediation class is a serious investment of time and money. You must attend all 40 hours of training and complete a 3-session internship. You must be an active learner in the training as all participants are required to take part in role-playing exercises where you will receive expert feedback from experienced mediators. You must give CMS consent to conduct a background check on you. You must faithfully turn in paperwork in a timely manner after completing a mediation session so that our Case Manager can record your results for the courts.

Once you have mediated a fair number of civil cases, you may be interested in further specialized training for more complex types of mediation. Advanced training in Adult Guardianship, Restorative Justice, Domestic Matters, and Special Education are just a few of the specialty areas you can explore as you grow as a mediator. Having volunteers with some of these specialties is essential to providing comprehensive mediation service to our region, especially for those who cannot afford legal counsel. Often, CMS will pay for advanced training if we are in need of a certain specialty or launching a new specialized program. And finally, every volunteer mediator must take an 8-hour Advanced Mediation Training workshop every two years if you wish to continue to be approved to serve on court rosters of mediators. These Advanced seminars cover interesting topics of the law such as ethics, domestic violence, family law, getting past impasse, etc.

High quality volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization and a lifeline to our clients. I hope you’ll submit your application today. If you need more information first, please call 269-982-7898.

With Warm Regards,

Dr. Sarah J. Dempsey
Executive Director, CMS