Open Letter to My Friends and Colleagues

New York City.  October, 2010

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I’m on a mission.

Everyday I meet people with legal problems; people in the midst of conflict.  They voice their complaints about their adversaries, moan about their lawyers, and groan, loudly, about their astronomical legal bills.  Still more complain that their disputes have dragged on for years and years….the complaints are endless.

And every week I speak to my colleagues – mediators and soon-to-be mediators, who are frantically looking for work.  Wondering how to set up a practice, how to market themselves, how to find their next client, gain a foothold and survive….

What’s wrong with this picture???!!

A few months ago, I started thinking…..  What if I could create a new way for people and businesses engaged in conflict to access expert advice and dispute resolution services?  Make it easier to understand, more accessible for those in remote or disparate areas or for working professionals or busy parents?  What if people learned about ways to get their legal questions answered and disputes resolved quickly, affordably, privately and comfortably – all with the help and support of trained professionals?

And then I thought about something else…. What if, through that same system, mediators and experts were able to gain access to clients without having to try so hard?  What if that system could connect people together to negotiate legal issues and resolve conflict in a way that is more streamlined, efficient yet effective, with low overhead so that those of us who needing flexible work hours, and those of us who are struggling to launch our careers as mediators can do so without worrying about making a big investment in office space, websites, and other fundamentals?  And, wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone behind the scenes providing all of the back-end support, like the legal oversight, the forms that we hate to create, and handling the client billing?

So, MediationLine was born!

I created this business to solve a problem.  At first, I designed the model to solve my own problem:  single mother, struggling entrepreneur, looking for flexible work so I could balance life/work goals….I’m sure some of you can relate.  But then I realized that my story was hardly unique.  Loads and loads of mediators out there, and the clients we serve everyday have the same story!!  Thousands upon thousands of us out there fall into the ‘strapped-for-cash-juggling-kids-and-a-career-sandwhich-generation’ category.  And we all need some extra support, whether we know how to articulate it or not.

I rolled up my sleeves and I got down to business to create something that I’m really excited about sharing with you.  Because it’s about all of us…..

MediationLine is designed to make conflict resolution as accessible, flexible and affordable as possible by giving people several ways to connect with a trained, certified mediator or expert when they need help.  And, for us mediators out there, MediationLine provides a system whereby both established and new mediators have a chance to build their practice, gain experience and be part of an exciting community of practitioners.

Here’s how it works.  Anyone in the country can contact MediationLine by phone, email or Skype and set up a free assessment consultation.  For now, I’ll be handling those consultations myself.   During the initial consultation, prospective clients learn about MediationLine, and I learn about them.  Through that dialogue we create a conflict resolution strategy together that will suit their needs, their financial limitations and whatever time and geographical challenges they happen to be facing.  That strategy will lay out a plan for Online Mediation, Do-It-Yourself Mediation, or In-Person Mediation, or a combination of a couple of these approaches in order to resolve the conflict at hand.

MediationLine is about flexibility and accessibility, and videoconferencing tools such as Skype are a featured way to connect parties to facilitate the mediation process, so the possibilities are endless!  Therefore, MediationLine will perform conflict resolution for separating and divorcing couples, families in conflict, caregivers and aging loved ones, and businesses with partnership, contractual and employment related issues to resolve.  No matter where parties are located, our online tools are able to reach and connect them together in order to facilitate a conversation.  And for those who may have financial constraints or who may wish to go it alone – we have copyrighted guidebooks and downloadable forms to help parties as they negotiate their own agreement.  Finally, for those who prefer traditional, in-person sessions with a mediator, MediationLine will match clients with a qualified mediator in their city or town with the capability to handle their dispute.

Jump on board!!

I’ve just launched this new website for MediationLine, and I invite you all to check it out and sign up to be part of MediationLine.  Please go to my Contact page, sign up and make sure you state in the Message box that you’re interested in applying to MediationLine as an affiliate mediator.  I’ll send you out a packet of information and application form right away!  When I send out your application pack, I’ll want to know how many hours of training you’ve completed, whether you received a certification, how many mediations you’ve completed, and what your area of specialty is.  Things like that.  Once you’re “verified”, we’ll add you to the list of esteemed MediationLine Mediators and as we grow, we’ll begin referring cases to those on our list.

I’m in the process of creating an online support community for my MediationLine Mediators so you can share tips, tricks, gripes and other ideas.  Plus, there will be a similar online community for our MediationLine partners: our therapists, financial planners, lawyers, stylists and real estate advisors, without whom we’d all be lost!

I started off by saying that I’m on a mission.  But it’s our mission, really.  And that mission is to let the public know what mediation is all about (there’s surprisingly little information out there), and then give them what they’re looking for.  I hope you’ll join me and then spread the word!

Sincerely yours,

Petra Maxwell, J.D.