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Non-Attorney Mediators: A Fresh Perspective on Conflict Resolution

Non-Attorney Mediators: A Fresh Perspective on Conflict Resolution

By: davidjohn April 24, 2023 2:02 am

The concept of alternative dispute resolution has been around for quite some time. In addition, out-of-court conflict resolution procedures have seen increased popularity in the past two decades. Mediation, the most popular method, is known for being flexible, informal, and non-conventional. However, there is one aspect of mediation that is considered traditional. Namely, the majority of mediators are former judges and attorneys. Most consider being a lawyer a necessary prerequisite for becoming a successful mediator. 

But is this premise correct? What about expert mediators without legal backgrounds? In this article, you will learn about non-attorney mediators and the benefits of having a fresh perspective on conflict resolution.

What is a Non-Attorney Mediator?

Non-attorney mediators (also known as professional mediators) are mediation professionals that come from various backgrounds. Among non-attorney mediators, the most common are financial experts, executives, construction specialists, doctors, psychologists, entrepreneurs, etc.

No two cases are the same. Life is always unpredictable, and so are conflict situations. Unlike their lawyer counterparts, non-attorney mediators have a vast empirical and academic potential for dealing with complex issues that require specific expertise. Legal issues are only one aspect of a dispute. Often, the emotional, psychological, logistic, and operational dimensions prevail. Drafting a settlement agreement is crucial, but it takes a long way to settle different points of view. That is where non-attorney mediators excel using their subject matter knowledge from various fields.

Therefore, professional (non-attorney) mediators are mediation specialists with subject matter expertise and necessary legal knowledge, helping you negotiate your way out of a dispute from a fresh and unique perspective.

Conflict Resolution is Vital, and Non-Attorney Mediators Can Help

Conflict Resolution is Vital, and Non-Attorney Mediators Can Help

Whether you are involved in a family, contract, commercial, or real estate dispute, a successful conflict resolution is the only way to continue your private or business affairs as usual. Disputes interfere with our everyday routine, posing a tremendous emotional and financial burden on everyone involved.

The first step toward successful conflict resolution is choosing an out-of-court environment. As opposed to litigation, mediation appears as a more cost and time-effective alternative.

Next, you must select an experienced mediator to help disputed parties negotiate their way through the disagreement. The key question when choosing the mediator is whether you should pick a lawyer (a former judge or an attorney) or a non-attorney mediator. Contrary to conventional belief, attorney mediators often lack the subject matter knowledge and negotiation skills necessary for tackling complex material issues of each case. Knowing laws and regulations is often insufficient for dealing with emotional and operational matters that most frequently generate conflict. That is why professional mediators provide the essential expertise that helps them (along with required legal knowledge) facilitate negotiations and lead the parties to conflict resolution.

Benefits of Non-Attorney Mediators

Professional subject matter mediators can offer numerous benefits to your conflict resolution experience. Non-attorney mediators are cost-effective, less adversarial, less legalistic, provide greater flexibility, and act more neutrally and impartially. Let us look at each of these advantages in more detail.


Mediators who work as attorneys have trouble distinguishing between their attorney practice and mediation role. That applies to their mediation style and the money they charge – which often resembles hefty attorney fees. Non-attorney mediators are different. Compared to attorneys, you are more likely to experience efficient and cost-friendly mediation with subject matter experts. Using their real-life and business experience, professional mediators tend to charge less for their services. They see mediation as a challenge they help solve rather than just another case they charge hourly. In practice, non–attorney mediators charge 75% or less than their lawyer counterparts.

Less adversarial

Although mediation is a non-adversarial out-of-court method, mediators have a different approach to conflict resolution, depending on their background. Mediators with legal careers often adopt a mediation style that resembles the role they assumed in the courtroom. Attorney-mediators cannot easily switch to the non-adversarial mode in mediation, so they frequently take sides and lose neutrality. Representing one of the disputed parties in litigation has conditioned them to see the dispute as a zero-sum game. Their job as lawyers is to pursue their client’s cases and use every opportunity to achieve legal victory – which is why attorney-mediators tend to see things from an adversarial perspective. On the other hand, former judges cannot undo their years of practice on the bench, which causes them to be judgmental, imposing solutions regardless of the negotiations. Unlike attorneys and former judges, non-attorney mediators focus on the matter at hand, employing their expertise to help parties resolve the disputed issues in a friendly and non-adversarial atmosphere.

Less legalistic

Each conflict has legal implications, and a successful resolution requires using legal instruments (settlement agreement). But instead of focusing on the formal (legal) side of the dispute, non-attorney mediators use their expertise to explore the depths of the conflict, seeking ways for genuine reconciliation. In other words, legal considerations are the outer layer of the dispute, not saying much about the root causes of a disagreement. Professional mediators deal with fundamentals, exploring deeper psychological, logistic, and operational motivations for the dispute. When they identify it, they motivate the parties to negotiate the matter until they reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

Greater flexibility

Mediators with different professional backgrounds (other than legal) tend to think and act more flexibly. Attorney-mediators typically adjust their mediation style to the legal framework, rarely thinking outside the box. Approaching the matter as attorneys, they offer narrow possibilities for getting out of conflict situations. Conversely, non-attorney mediators see the conflict through the lens of experience and their subject matter expertise. That does not mean that non-attorneys lack the sense of what is realistic or legal. The opposite is true – staying within the legal system, they explore different options and suggest more flexible solutions. In addition, professional mediators offer greater diversity. Unlike lawyers, they bring various backgrounds, capabilities, and personalities. That means more options and richer mediation experience.

More neutral and impartial

A non-adversarial approach means non-attorney mediators are more neutral and impartial. Unlike attorneys, who frequently act as if they have a fiduciary duty to one of the parties, non-attorneys are free from such a burden. Without previous adversarial experience, professional mediators focus solely on the disputed matter, staying neutral throughout the process. Their task is to offer an impartial perspective and help parties reach the point where their interests converge.

Turn to David L. John - a Truly Neutral Mediator

Turn to David L. John – a Truly Neutral Mediator

David L. John is a top-notch Florida mediator with over three decades of real-life business experience.

In his prolific career, Mr. John mastered the nuances of manufacturing, professional engineering consulting, construction, commercial & residential real estate transactions, and general business.

Focusing on subject-matter issues and using supreme negotiation skills while adhering to the highest ethical and legal standards, David can help you achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, regardless of the complexity of your case.

Please reach out today to schedule your consultation.