Assuming you have an idea of the qualities you are looking for in a mediator, how do you go about locating a mediator who fits the bill? Your telephone and computer can lead you to much more comprehensive sources than will be found on the list that your colleague down the hall keeps in his top drawer. You can always call one of the commercial provider organizations, and they will be happy to send you a slate of resumes of the members of the panel. You can Google various search terms that could direct you to the type of mediator you are looking for.
If you want something more organized, there are a number of online directories available. Those who were accustomed to relying on the court panel, especially the party select option, might find some of the features of these directories familiar. Most allow you to search for a mediator by geographic area, by legal subject matter, or other criteria. Standards for inclusion in these directories will vary. Some require their members to pass some sort of screening process. Others accept payment for listing. And still others are open to all, but provide enough information to allow users to get some idea of the qualifications of the panelists. Some of these sites have a particular focus, such as real estate or entertainment or community mediation. Others are more oriented to commercial or high dollar value disputes.
For example, the SCMA Select a Mediator directory, with which I am most familiar, is limited to members of the Southern California Mediation Association who can demonstrate comparable qualifications to those formerly required for listing on the LA Superior Court mediator panel. It includes a wide range of mediators, both lawyers and non-lawyers, with experience in a large number of substantive areas, from neighbor disputes to family law to complex commercial or personal injury matters. This directory also allows searching by three tiers of rate ranges, and identifies mediators willing to work at reduced rates on smaller cases.
After conducting a search for mediators on one or more of these sites, parties can usually browse through the biographical and other information supplied by mediators to get more detailed information usually supplied by the mediator, about their backgrounds, level of experience and their mediation styles. The next step might be to interview several mediators over the telephone, to find out how they might approach your case, and ascertain their availability.
Here are the major free online directories that are particularly useful in California: