I chose to focus my practice on family law matters — divorce, adoption, custody, child support, and protective orders. Some people say that focusing on one area of law is beneficial to your practice because it shows that you are an “expert” on that topic; others say that focusing on one area of law will decrease your revenue stream.
Although I agree with the former, I am always looking to see how I can expand my business without offering services outside of the family-law realm.
I am a firm believer that my clients’ money is better spent on their family rather than paying for my services. If a case can settle — and almost all cases should settle outside of court — it is beneficial for the parties not only financially, but also emotionally, because the parties’ will have more control over their outcome then they would if they had a judge decide.
For these reasons, I decided to become certified as a family law mediator.
In order to obtain a family law mediators certificate (which is required to become a court-appointed mediator) you must take a 40-hour mediation course, as well as a 20-hour mediation course on custody-related issues, and another 20-hour mediation course specifically related to property issues in divorce cases. These courses are taught by private organizations, MSBA and other local bar associations.
Once you have completed these courses, in order to be listed as a court-appointed mediator you will need to shadow other court-appointed mediators or show the court that you have conducted your own private mediations. Once you have a certain amount of hours shadowing or conducting your own private mediation session, you can submit your application to the court and shortly thereafter you should be added to the list of court-appointed mediators.
Another way to drum up more business — and also provide some pro bono work — is if the county in which you are a court-appointed mediator offers mediators to facilitate at scheduling conferences to try and see if cases can be resolved either on a global or temporary basis. If you have the opportunity, definitely volunteer your time as a facilitator; it is rewarding to help pro se litigants be able to successfully and quickly resolve their issues (plus it makes the court, happy too!).
So what are you waiting for? Become a court-appointed mediator, and while you are at, volunteer to become a facilitator as well!