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Non-Attorney Mediator Insider’s Guide to Construction Dispute Resolution

Non-Attorney Mediator Insider’s Guide to Construction Dispute Resolution

By: davidjohn April 10, 2023 1:10 am

Disputes arising between key players in the construction industry can quickly escalate, leading to time-consuming and financially draining litigation. A lengthy and expensive court process impacts the relationship between parties involved in construction undertakings. Any conflict between investors, architects, contractors, and engineers leads to a stalemate, damaging long-term projects, leaving detrimental financial effects, and compromising public interest.

This article will discuss central questions regarding construction disputes, including the role of non-attorney mediators, their qualifications, and the benefits of mediation in resolving conflicts between disputed parties.

David L. John, a distinguished Florida commercial mediator with decades of hands-on construction experience, brings you a non-attorney mediator insider’s guide to construction dispute resolution.

The Importance of the Construction Industry

The construction industry is one of the crucial sectors contributing to economic growth in any society. Countless construction companies employ millions of people, providing job opportunities and developing vital infrastructure (bridges, roads, railways, airports), commercial facilities (office buildings, malls, concert halls), and public and residential buildings (schools, hospitals, houses).

In addition, construction projects propel the development of other sectors, such as transportation, banking, and manufacturing. The multiplier effect of the construction industry generates productivity and competitiveness, boosting overall economic activity.

Construction Disputes - Typical Causes

Construction Disputes – Typical Causes

Construction disputes, inherent to all complex building investments, lead to project delays, additional expenses, and ruined relationships. Resolving disputes is difficult without knowing what led to the conflict in the first place. Below are the most common factors leading to construction disputes:

  • Construction defects: Inadequate materials or professional negligence can lead to significant damage or human casualties. Errors and omissions related to building materials or craftsmanship often cause disputes resulting in multi-million lawsuits.
  • Design defects: Errors in design projects typically cause delays and extra costs, leading to disputes between architects, contractors, and investors.
  • Contract disputes: Disagreements regarding payment, deadlines, and other contract terms and conditions lead to contract disputes that can halt construction projects for months.
  • Scheduling issues and delays: Any delay or scheduling issue (such as building material delivery or manufacturing work completion) usually leads to a dispute involving contractors, subcontractors, and investors.

The Role of a Non-Attorney Mediator

Non-attorney mediators are not licensed attorneys. Also known as professional mediators, non-attorney mediators come from various backgrounds, such as general business, construction, banking, psychology, and social work.

Unlike lawyers, non-attorney mediators possess subject matter experience, helping them cope with real-life challenges involved in a particular dispute.

In addition to professional qualifications and experience, non-attorney mediators undergo necessary legal training. The combination of subject matter expertise and legal knowledge enables them to understand complex issues from a legal perspective, helping the parties negotiate their way out of the dispute and draft the settlement agreement.

Non-attorney mediators play a different role in dispute resolution than attorneys or former judges. Unlike lawyers, professional mediators bring a fresh perspective to conflict resolution. Mediators who practice as lawyers often enter the session room with prejudices and are likely to side with one of the parties (like they usually do when representing clients). On the other hand, former judges tend to take an authoritative stance, imposing solutions and issuing decisions (as they used to do on the bench). Non-attorney mediators are different. They focus on a matter without a vested interest in the outcome, applying their professional knowledge to help parties settle the dispute. Professional mediators are more likely to understand the parties’ underlying motivations and the source of disagreement. That helps them stir the negotiations into the desired direction, leading the opposite sides to an agreement.

What Are the Benefits of Non-Attorney Mediators?

Resolving construction disputes with the help of a non-attorney mediator brings not only fresh and unique perspectives to the conflicting situation. It offers cost-effectiveness, a non-legalistic approach, genuine neutrality, and extra flexibility.

  1. Cost-effectiveness

Professional mediators come from a non-attorney background. They do not see work through the attorney fees lenses. Instead, they focus on solving real-life challenges using their subject matter expertise. Non-attorney mediators measure their success through practical changes they could produce, not as procedural actions with pre-assigned fees. Consequently, the costs of their services are considerably lower. In practice, non–attorney mediators charge 75% or less compared to their lawyer counterparts.

  1. Non-legalistic approach

Non-mediators possess the necessary legal knowledge enabling them to finalize the agreement. However, their approach is less legalistic and more substantial. Focusing on the disputed issues from a subject-matter perspective makes them more likely to produce long-lasting results.

  1. Genuine neutrality

Professional mediators approach every dispute from a genuinely neutral position. That does not mean that attorney mediators or former judges lack impartiality. However, their view on the dispute is tainted with negative biases (attorneys) or with the decision-making role they are used to playing in the courtroom (judges). On the other hand, non-attorney mediators are free from prejudices, approaching things neutrally and impartially.

  1. Extra flexibility

Unlike their colleagues with a legal background, non-attorney mediators think outside the box. Instead of being strict about legal details, professional mediators explore the conflict deeper, seeking the root causes of the dispute. Of course, their facilitating role always stays within the boundaries of what is legally acceptable. But they always go the extra mile to find solutions to a conflicting situations.

Non-Attorney Mediators Qualifications in Construction Disputes

Non-attorney mediators facilitating construction dispute negotiations come from the construction industry.

Construction specialists possess the highest qualifications regarding education, training, experience, certifications, and licenses.

Construction specialists usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, construction management, or architecture. These degrees enable non-attorney mediators to understand construction methods, building codes, materials, and construction management.

In addition to education, professional mediators dealing with construction disputes undergo specific training. Professionals working in the construction industry acquire the necessary training and experience to help them cope with real-life challenges and conflicting situations at a negotiation table.

Construction specialists already have subject-matter expertise, but additional certifications and licenses can make them even more competitive as non-attorney mediators.

Additional valuable traits that differentiate non-attorney mediators from attorneys and former judges are technical, problem-solving, organization, and communication skills. Regarding technical abilities, no lawyer can compete with construction specialists during intense negotiations. Problem-solving skills allow non-attorney mediators to quickly resolve construction-related conflicts, helping the parties overcome challenges through talks. Communication skills enable professional mediators to understand technical information and processes, while organizational skills help them solve operational challenges inherent to each construction project.

Construction Dispute Mediation

Non-Attorney Mediators Bring Extra Benefits to Construction Dispute Mediation

The advantages of mediation over litigation in resolving construction disputes are common knowledge. Instead of a financially and emotionally draining court process that wreaks havoc on business relationships, mediation offers a simple way out of conflicting situations. Neutral mediators help parties negotiate through the dispute in an informal and friendly environment. Unlike decisions imposed by state-appointed judges, settlement agreements will likely endure the test of time, producing reconciliatory effects.

All these benefits multiply when non-mediators are involved. As mentioned, professional mediators offer less adversarial and legalistic approaches while bringing more neutrality and flexibility. That makes subject-matter experts in construction dispute mediation unmatched by the competition.

Key Takeaways

  • The construction sector is an essential part of every developed and fast-growing economy.
  • Construction disputes disrupt long-term construction projects, damaging business relationships and halting crucial infrastructure projects.
  • Typical factors causing construction disputes include design errors, delay issues, construction defects, and contract disputes.
  • Non-attorney mediators come from different professional backgrounds. As construction specialists, they possess unique education degrees, advanced training, certifications, and years-long experience.

Construction Disputes Resolution Made Simple

David L. John is a distinguished Florida mediator with over 30 years of hands-on business experience.

Throughout his fruitful career, Mr. John has seen the construction business from all perspectives. As a construction specialist, he managed the most complex projects involving dozens of contractors and subcontractors, hundreds of employees, and millions of investments. In the courtroom, David has experienced business disputes from both plaintiff’s and the defendant’s points of view.

Negotiating construction disputes is a burdensome task. Each side has strong incentives to guard their position, refusing to move an inch closer to the opposite party.

But for rare top-notch non-attorney mediators such as Mr. John, facilitating complex construction negotiations is another professional challenge they must adequately address. David’s commitment to helping clients resolve the most complex construction disputes is unrivaled among the competition.

Please call us today at 954-444-2900 or email us at to schedule your free consultation.