Standing Up, Standing Out: Show Up, Follow Through

Last week we talked about how your professional brand is a natural extension of the personal. If you’re joining us again from last week and if you’re just tuning in now and haven’t read Part I and II of this series, I strongly recommend that you click here and here to do that before going on.

We’ve looked at how to develop a strong brand, but a strong brand isn’t worth much if it isn’t out and about, getting you the clients you want and the work you enjoy. There are many ways to share your brand with the world – you get to decide which ones will work best for you.

Brand Pillar Three
Ready to Launch!

Once you’re clear on your personal and professional brand, you need to give some consideration to where you want to express it and how. Even though we’ve talked about starting with you, minimizing cognitive dissonance and helping people see you clearly, you still get to decide how much you get to share and where.

This is especially important in today’s overly connected world. It’s tough to maintain credibility as a level-headed mediator if you tend to comment loudly and profanely on Facebook posts or Twitter. People can and will Google you. This doesn’t mean you should hide your personality online or off, but it does mean you need to raise your awareness of how things might be perceived by others.

Here’s what to consider for building this pillar, through the lens of your personal and professional brand:

  • Where do you want to be seen, online and off? Think of where your best clients, resources and support sources might be found. Find ways to get there, whether through networking, online posts or social avenues.
  • How do you want to show up? Before you go, think about how you’ll be when you get there. How is your brand getting reflected in all that you do? Is it consistent with who you are?
  • How much do you want to share? If you’re a more private person, then you will naturally want to be a bit more reserved online and off. If you’re quite open, then you’ll share more freely. However, you’ll want to consider the effects of both. Too private and it will be hard for people to relate to your humanity. Too open and it will be hard for people to relate to your expertise.

Ideally the way you show up will be matched to your brand. For example, if you’re a quiet and sensible person, show that in the places you’ve chosen to go. You might spend time listening and say only one or two things to someone who seems interesting. Your comments on social media are likely to be thoughtful. Your website will be full of useful content but likely not flashy. Cliché it might be, but keeping it real works.

Brand Pillar Four
Systems Check

The last and arguably most significant pillar once you get into space is the systems check. When it comes to brand, we’re always operating with incomplete information; we’ve usually got a pretty good idea internally of how we’re feeling about what we’re doing, but the only way to be sure of how well your brand is working for sure is to get external feedback.

Whatever information you get, incorporate it and adjust when and if necessary. Sometimes that means adjusting your brand expression and sometimes it means adjusting your environment, but keep adjusting. As much as we love to get things finished, brand is an evolving thing, rarely static for more than a year or two before shifts need to be made.

Here are the things to consider for getting checked in:

  • Do you feel good about how you look and how you’re showing up?
  • Are people responding well when you meet them?
  • Is having an aligned brand leading you to more work and better connections?

For many people, seeking out external feedback can be tricky, so we’ll finish with some important safety tips.

First, remember to consider the source and choose carefully. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, so sometimes no adjustments need to be made, if you’re good with the first and third points above.

Second, if the response isn’t good and you think it should be, check back to see if how you’re showing up is appropriate for the audience in addition to being appropriate for you.  Sometimes people err on the side of individualization and fail to fully consider the impact of their environment.

Third, remember that response is a subjective thing and only you can define the response you’d like to get. For example, if you’re a challenger then the desired response might be for people to get mad at you and go away. Think carefully about the kind of response you want your brand to get.

The feelings you have internally and the response you’re getting externally should match up. If you feel capable and confident and are getting treated as someone who is those things, then great. If that’s not happening, refer to pillars one two and three.

Happy Branding!


Katherine LazarukKatherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI.

Standing Up, Standing Out: Personal v Professional Brand

If you’re joining us again from last week and if you’re just tuning in now and haven’t read Part I of this series, I strongly recommend that you click here to do that before going on.

Last week we talked about some of the necessary things to consider when developing a strong personal brand and introduced the idea that a professional brand is an extension of the personal. One of the biggest misconceptions about professional presence or professional brand is that it must be separate from your personal; how many times have you heard someone say, “Leave your personal life at the door.”

With the advance of the wholehearted living movement and the blurring of the personal and professional on social media, we’re starting to see a shift in the concept of professional presence and branding that marries the two in a tangible way. People work best when they get to bring their whole selves to work; this kind of alignment between the two is more important than ever.

Brand Pillar Two:
You Might Be at the Center, but What’s in Your Orbit?

Once you’ve given some consideration to who you are and how you want to express that, it’s time to think about the what’s around you. For people to know, like and trust you, the biggest key is minimizing the potential for cognitive dissonance.

Ideally you want people to think, when you tell them what you do, that it makes sense, that it fits with what they’re seeing of you. The first pillar is about centering you. This pillar is about centering your audience.

Here’s what to consider when thinking of your orbit:

  • What are the services you provide? Do you do civil, family or child protection mediation? Each one requires a different level of formality and your brand needs to reflect that.
  • Who is your client? Whether you work with kids or adults or both, you’ll need to create a sense of harmony visually to make it easier to build rapport.
  • Where do you work? Do you live in an urban, suburban, or rural community? Expectations of formality vary city to city and community to community.
  • Do you work in an office or are you solo? If you’re working in or for an organization, then their guidelines must be considered, since you’re representing the company wherever you go. If you’re a solopreneur, then you’ll have a bit more latitude.
  • What do people expect a mediator to look like? If organization and order is part of your job, then looking like you’re organized and neat and tidy will help build trust with clients.
  • How might people expect a mediator to behave? Your verbal and non-verbal signals need to line up with your level of professionalism and your presence (online and off) speaks about your ability to successfully mediate tricky disputes.

In the end, matching your personal brand and visual expression of it to the kinds of things you do and to your audience helps people see you clearly as a professional and be more likely to hire you. You can’t afford not to be strategic.

Stay tuned – next week we’ll have Brand Pillars Three and Four, all about showing up and checking in for the conclusion of our branding series.


Katherine LazarukKatherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI.

Standing Up, Standing Out: Professional Branding for Mediators

Did you know that what you put on your body affects your psychological processes?

Did you know that you can add 10-15% to your bottom line simply by shifting your professional presence?

If you answered no to these question (or yes, but want to know more), you’re in the right place. This is a three-part series of blogs authored for us by Katherine Lazaruk, founder and principal consultant with ICU Consulting Inc. She and our CEO, Monique Steensma, met as volunteers with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Women’s Leadership Circle Advisory Committee, and after learning a bit more about her, Monique invited to her to do a piece here for us since professional branding is something with which many of us struggle. For more info, you can click here for her bio and learn about her training, designations and practice.

In this series, you’ll learn the four pillars of professional brand, the top strategic applications for leveraging it and five tips for creating a strong impression online and off. This is of course a high-level overview, as we don’t necessarily have space for a deep dive, but we wanted to give you a good place to start if you’re thinking of growing your professional brand.

Once you’ve read through the posts, please do comment – if we get a strong response, we’ll consider adding a webinar or other possible educational options for you in this area. Thanks for being here at the Mediate BC Blog. We hope you enjoy the series.

First Things First

If you’re reading this, you probably want to get more clients in your existing market, get into new markets, or get on the list at Mediate BC to get more work there. To do that, it’s important to make a good first and lasting impression. You might think brand is all about how others view you and, to a certain extent, that’s true, but it’s hard to control. Let’s start instead with something that’s all up to us.

Ultimately, we’d like to leverage our personal brand to shape the way people see us so we can create more interest, impact and influence. What most people miss when they start this process is that successful personal branding is about getting honest with who you are and sharing that with the world, instead of putting out an impression that isn’t true.

The fact is, whenever we’re considering our brand, we’re always operating with incomplete information. We can never really experience ourselves the way others experience us. We only know what’s inside us – who we are, what we can do and what we believe. Once we get clear on that, we can strategically use correctly aligned visual, verbal and behavioural cues to help people know, like and trust us faster and significantly improve the success of our communication.

Branding Pillar One:
You Are the Center of Your Universe

Most of our lives we’re bombarded with messages that we need to think of others before ourselves. In service industry professionals, this message may have a very strong hold because of the intense desire to help. It’s going to feel a little weird to spend time thinking of yourself, but it’s the only place to start.

Your personal brand is comprised of a few different things, including your physicality, your personality and your lifestyle, all of which can be expressed visually. Three quarters or more of your impression is based on your visual presentation, so as much as you hate the idea of not being judged, like a book, by your cover, I’m sorry to tell you it’s wired in our neurology, so you might as well work it to your advantage.

Make friends with your container. It’s the only one you’ve got and it’s my personal belief that it’s the perfect container to do whatever you’re meant to do on the planet. The sooner you do this, the easier your life will roll. This pillar is all about you.

Here’s what to consider for developing a strong personal brand:

  • What do you look like? In terms of clothing, what works well for your body shape and colouring? Matching what you wear to your physical self creates visual harmony.
  • Who are you as a person? Do you love quirky things, do you have cool hobbies, are you a very serious person? Matching what you wear to your personality lets people know a bit about you before you say a word.
  • What’s your lifestyle like? Your personal brand is shaped by what you do. For example, if you’re a cyclist who loves to bike everywhere, your functional requirements will be different than someone who drives to work.

Your professional brand should be a natural extension of your personal brand. If you’re a very different person professionally and personally, you’re lying to yourself somewhere and it shows.

You can absolutely choose what to show and to whom, but everything you wear, do and say should add up. People sheer off, often unconsciously, when things don’t add up, so help them understand you by making sure that you’re paying attention to the details. I often liken it to imagining yourself as a sound system – you can turn the volume up or down, but it’s still the same piece of equipment. You get to decide what kind of sound system you are.

Wondering how to extend your personal brand into your professional life? Stay tuned for Part Two.


Katherine LazarukKatherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI. 

10 First-Career Dispute Resolution Professionals

We’ve provided short bios of each of ten individuals we contacted for this post since their career paths offer interesting insights into opportunities to enter the field early.[1] 

In seeking out 10 people who started their careers as dispute resolution professionals, we were optimistic that we could find that many, but didn’t expect to be quite so encouraged by how many more we found! It would have been easy to have grown this list to 20 or even more.  Clearly the disheartening advice that so many new DR professionals continue to hear (“There’s no room in the field”, “No one will take you seriously until you’re older,” etc.) do not reflect the changing landscape of dispute resolution practice.  There are, in fact, a growing number of opportunities for young professionals to enter the dispute resolution field.

Let’s find ways support first career dispute resolution professionals through mentorship, pointing out new niche markets that might be ripe for new ideas and energetic development, and sharing ideas about the many, many ways in which one can make use of conflict resolution training to build a career!  In doing so, we will be building a more robust and sustainable dispute resolution landscape for all of us.[2]

Click the images below to learn more about these 10 First-Career Dispute Resolution Professionals.

[1] Identifying a list of First Career DR Professionals was decidedly a collective effort. Many thanks to C.D. Saint, Robin Phillips, and Kent Highnam for ensuring such broad representation of different career paths. 

[2]Join Sterling Nelson, Carrie Gallant, Laura Matthews and Janko Predovic at “Share the Land”: CLEBC’s Dispute Resolution Conference on November 10th to hear more about their experiences and to discuss barriers and opportunities to developing a first career in dispute resolution.

Our guest curator for this series on First Careers in Dispute Resolution is Sharon Sutherland. Sharon is a Mediate BC Civil Roster Mediator.  She began her dispute resolution practice in 1994 immediately following her call to the bar in Ontario. She is co-chair of the November 10th CLE Conference on Dispute Resolution Share the Land.

Matt Chritchley

Matt ChritchleyMatt studied Jazz music before getting a BA in Political Science (1998) from University of Calgary, and starting his career in dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch.
The Residential Tenancy Branch was a great place to learn about conflict resolution, and Matt enjoyed assisting landlords, tenants and community groups to resolve their disputes.  Matt found it “very rewarding to provide information to people, and possibly bring them reassurance, when they were dealing with high anxiety and complex disputes.”  In addition, Matt learned the challenges associated with public sector management and organizational change, before he took a position with the Vancouver Justice Access Centre (VJAC).
Matt’s role at the VJAC was to assist self-representing litigants to resolve their disputes in various courts and tribunals.  This role gave Matt the opportunity to work in a broader legal context, and more closely with mediators, while adding to his mediation and negotiation credentials.  Matt’s latest role is as Alternate Resolution Manager at the Teacher Regulation Branch, where he is applying his dispute resolution experience.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be?

I was fortunate to find a great job, and to work with great people.   I believe there are dispute resolution opportunities in most work environments, but there are few as interesting as the Tribunals or Courts.  In addition, I have had mentors that challenged me to give presentations, manage staff, and deal with difficult clients, helping me build the skills to be an effective mediator.

Mentors or Influences?

There are many people who have encouraged me to pursue a career in dispute resolution but three stand out.
  • Susan Greig: Past Director of Operations for the RTB
  • Michael Rittinger: Local Manager and FJC at the VJAC
  • Nancy Baker: Mediator and coach at the Justice Institute
Susan encouraged me to listen, observe, and work outside my comfort zone, while Michael and Nancy modeled dispute resolution and mediation skills in all of their interactions.  I owe them all a debt of gratitude.

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

I enjoy working directly with people in dispute, and feel challenged and energized when I have an opportunity to help people. Also, as a mediator, you need to find comfort working with incomplete information.
My advice is to make sure that you enjoy dealing with dispute and the mediation process, and then learn as much as you can about an area of your interest and build your skills.  It definitely helps to learn from other mediators, lawyers, paralegals, or legal administrators, along the way.

Sarah Daitch

Sarah DaitchA former member of Canada’s national cross-country ski team, Sarah developed an independent practice as a mediator, facilitator and public policy consultant. Her clients included territorial governments, and US conflict resolution organizations RESOLVE and the Consensus Building Institute. She facilitated multi-stakeholder collaborative processes in health, education and natural resources. Sarah’s mediation experience includes property, strata and small business.

Raised in Inuit, Dene and Métis communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Sarah currently works as the Program Manager for the ACCESS Facility in The Hague, Netherlands. In this role, Sarah supports collaboration through dialogue to address conflict between companies, communities and governments. With a BA in International Relations, and an MA in Dispute Resolution, Sarah is a certified civil dispute mediator with Mediate BC and volunteers with Mediators Beyond Borders’ Sierra Leone project. Sarah was a 2013-2014 Action Canada Fellow, in 2013 was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was a member of the 2015 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be?

I had to spend the time developing clarity on what I wanted my practice to be about and who my ideal clients were. Then I relentlessly sought mentors and colleagues whose experience I could learn from to guide me in the right direction. This helped me to gain experience in multi stakeholder collaboration, particularly in the public policy arena. Persistence was key.

Mentors or Influences?

Kate Kopischke – I met Kate working on a project for US conflict resolution organization RESOLVE. Kate was instrumental in encouraging me to persist, be patient, focused and introducing me to other colleagues and organizations in my area of interest – addressing public policy and natural resource conflict. Kate is an accomplished, dedicated mediator who has a generous spirit and is committed to procedural fairness. She has helped countless community organizations and companies navigate complex natural resource conflicts all over the world.

Ben Ziegler was one of my mentors and co-mediators in the Mediate BC Small Claims Court Mediation Program. I learned many foundational mediation skills from Ben. I also learned about the importance of being creative and entrepreneurial from observing how Ben had developed a niche in online mediation. Following my acceptance to the Mediate BC roster, Ben encouraged me to pursue the mediation and facilitation work I was passionate about in international development. Ben introduced me to Gillian Saxby, Mediate BC member and Program Manager for Mediators Beyond Borders. As a volunteer with Mediators Beyond Borders, I am really proud of the work our team has done to train facilitators in Sierra Leone, supporting them in reintegrating their communities following the trauma caused by Ebola. I might never have become involved without Ben’s advice to connect with Gillian.

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

To pursue a first career in dispute resolution, it helps to be flexible and willing to do a variety of work to gain experience – tolerance for risk and uncertainty is required. For me, career and business development coaching was instrumental as I built my practice.  Learning to pitch your ideas and interests to colleagues and potential clients in a compelling way helps you to focus and find collaborators. Researching what areas of dispute resolution or mediation you are interested in and want to practice is important, as these can vary widely from family mediation, to human rights or ombudsman investigations, to multi party disputes in the international development arena. Learning everything you can about your desired area of practice positions you to find mentors to work with who are crucial. Dispute Resolution professionals are playing an important role in many human development challenges to work for procedural fairness and outcomes that are inclusive and legitimate – when we work to understand each other, we have the unique opportunity to build more peaceful and flourishing communities.

Robert Finlay

Robert FinlayRobert works alongside Bob Finlay as a Mediator at Finlay Counselling & Mediation Services. Since 2010, Robert has mediated legal disputes involving a variety of complex family, employment, and civil law issues including separation and divorce, parenting time and responsibilities, guardianship, child and spousal support, property division, employment discrimination, and defamation.

Earlier in his career, Robert worked as a Manager at Mediate BC where he co-developed the Family Mediation Program, an innovative program that provides improved provincial access to mediation services for families and mediation training for mediators.

Robert earned a Law Degree from Seattle University School of Law and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Simon Fraser University. Robert is a licensed attorney and is qualified to mediate under the Family Law Act.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be?

I learned early in my career that I prefer helping clients find collaborative and creative solutions to resolve their disputes. Prior to law school, I completed mediation courses at the Justice Institute of British Columbia which shaped my educational focus and career path. As a result, I completed dispute resolution classes at law school, became a member of my law school’s dispute resolution board, and gained valuable experience at my law school’s mediation clinic.

Mentors or Influences?   

Bob Finlay

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

In order to bridge the gap between mediation training and practice, it is important to find a variety of ways to obtain the experience and knowledge necessary to mediate complex legal disputes. For example, I have found that co-mediating with a senior mediator is a valuable way to practice mediation skills and to learn about all aspects of the mediation process and business.

Carrie Gallant

Carrie GallantAfter her call the Ontario Bar in 1991, Carrie began her career with the Ontario Pay Equity Commission where she mediated and adjudicated pay equity disputes and delivered staff training in mediation.  In 1999, Carrie was appointed Director of the University of Windsor Mediation Service.

Carrie moved to BC in 2001 and served as Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the Justice Institute.  In 2003, Carrie worked as co-program manager of the Small Claims Mediation Practicum, before moving to full-time private practice in negotiation consulting, training, mediation and coaching in 2004.

Over the past decade, Carrie has incorporated a wide range of conflict resolution roles into her practice, including Legal Advisor to North America’s first ever legislative theatre production, “Practicing Democracy”; teaching negotiation and mediation advocacy at UBC Faculty of Law; and instructing the Intensive Mediation program for the Notaries Society of BC. Carrie is a Negotiation Consultant for ENS International and provides negotiation and training for clients across North America.  Her special areas of interest include gender issues, emotional intelligence, improvisation and training design.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be?

I’d say it was one part my being in the right place at the right time and one part my seizing the opportunity.

Mentors or Influences?

The team at the Pay Equity Commission who hired me, and whom I worked with for four years as a mediator, including Murray Lapp and the mediators I trained with and later co-developed custom in-house mediation training programs. Leslie MacLeod, who was Legal Counsel then, a terrific first boss and encouraged my growth into DR.

Dr. Julie Macfarlane, who hired me to run the University of Windsor Mediation Service, and challenged my development as a teacher, mediator and leader.

Sharon Sutherland, who opened many doors to me after I arrived in BC – including my teaching at UBC Law as adjunct professor, the vast network of DR professionals; CLE DR conferences – and with whom I have had the great pleasure and most fun working on DR projects, conference presentations, training programs, CoRe Challenges and Speaker Series, and soon-to-be Advanced Mediation Retreats!

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

Look for and be open to opportunities to use your skill set. Don’t let yourself be restricted to your core field (i.e. if you are a lawyer, look beyond the legal field). Look to regulatory agencies.  Expand to other opportunities for conflict resolution (not just DR). Try your hand in the non-profit sector. Restorative justice programs are wonderful ways to really test your own capacity, as well as offer a valuable service to the community.

Kyra Hudson

Kyra HudsonKyra is a Mediator, Lawyer, Investigator, Facilitator and Trainer.  She works in private practice with a focus on workplace dispute resolution.  She also works as a BC Provincial Court Civil Mediator and is a member of Mediate BC’s Civil Roster.  Kyra has been involved in the resolution of 100s of civil disputes focusing specifically in the areas of workplace and employment, commercial, community, strata, and insurance matters.  Kyra graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be? 

The opportunities I had to be involved in the mediation community via the mediation clinic at UBC were key.  The other piece was structuring my legal practice (from the beginning) in a way that allowed me to create the space to focus on mediation work and the mediation community was essential. 

Mentors or Influences? 

Sharon Sutherland, Alan Schapiro, Kari Boyle.

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

Find a way to continue to do what pays you while making the space to do mediations and be around people who mediate.

Laura Matthews

Laura MatthewsFollowing graduation from UBC Law (2007) with a degree concentration in dispute resolution and First Nation’s Legal Studies, Laura began her career as a mediator on the Child Protection roster.  Her experience/interest in delivering mediation services to First Nations communities, in particular in the remote regions of BC, led her to expand her career in 2009 to include delivery of legal outreach throughout BC for the Legal Services Society of BC.  Laura delivered information to communities on the use of mediation/dispute resolution in Child Protection as well as <em>Gladue </em>rights awareness for First Nations criminal offenders.  Called to the Bar of BC in 2011, Laura has since developed a parents’ counsel Child Protection practice in the Peace River. Laura combines her legal and mediation practices with writing Gladue reports and training Gladue report writers in BC and Saskatchewan.  A recent highlight in Laura’s career was an invitation to the Legal Board of Nunavut’s annual conference to deliver information on mediation and Gladue rights to the lawyers in that territory.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be? 

Undoubtedly, the factor I would point to would be the hands-on training I received at UBC Law through the Small Claims Court practicum.  I was given the opportunity to have hands-on experience in mediation in a range of real circumstances, and as a result my career focus has been, and continues to be, informing, encouraging and providing alternate dispute resolution services to those in conflict.

Mentors or Influences?

I was inspired by my ADR instructors at UBC Law: Colleen Cattell, QC and Sharon Sutherland both assisted in the development of my career.  Joyce Bradley, QC was influential as a mentor in the Child Protection Practicum program sparking, my interest in delivering ADR to remote, underserviced areas.

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

Familiarize yourself with the bodies that govern alternative dispute resolution practice in BC.  Keep up with what is new in the field through the various websites of the organizations who offer ADR services.  Do what you can to get some hands-on experience.  Volunteer.  You will gain essential practical experience in real life situations with real people and their conflicts and be creating contacts in the field you are pursuing.

Emily Pos

Emily PosEmily has been a practicing mediator since 2006, having studied mediation at the Justice Institute of British Columbia, where she obtained certificates in Family Mediation and Third Party Intervention.  Between 2006 and 2008 Emily completed both the Small Claims Mediation Practicum and the Child Protection Mediation Practicum.  Prior to her mediation-focused education, Emily graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Speech Communication from the University of Waterloo.  Emily also holds an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies from Briercrest College.  Emily was born and raised in Fort St. John, though she lived away from the region for almost a decade while attending school.  In 2007, she moved back to Fort St. John and lives there with her husband Michael their two young sons.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be? 

My practice has taken a while to build, in the early days I worked full time for a very flexible employer who supported me by letting me fit mediation files into my “day job,” once I had my children I began to work from home and was able to continue practicing mediation because of my husband’s support.

Mentors or Influences?

I’ve had the good fortune to live geographically close to Wayne Plenert who is boundlessly enthusiastic about mediation generally and has been a great encouragement to me specifically.  I also had the privilege to work with wonderful mediators during my two practicums, and Wendy Lakusta specifically was such an encouragement and example to me starting out, and continues to be.

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

Perseverance, it can take a long time to build a sustainable practice so don’t be discouraged if mediation is only one part of your working life for a while.  Also make sure you have a clear vision of why you want to be a mediator and what being “successful” will look like, because that might not be simply an economic achievement.  I am personally compelled that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”(Matt 5:9) and I am successful when I am engaging with people to help them build peaceful resolutions and set the groundwork for healthier interactions.

Janko Predovic

Janko PredovicJanko attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto for his B.A. (Criminology, 2003), then University of Sydney Law School for his Master’s (Criminology, 2004) and Bachelor of Laws (2010) degrees. Janko has never considered himself a spectacular advocate, but describes himself as a quick and efficient problem solver. While articling he spent quite a bit of time in family court watching a system that just did not seem to make any sense for most of the people who were stuck in it, and this led him to undertake Mediation and Collaborative Law training before he was called to the Bar. Thinking that working in a firm would limit the opportunities to use his skillset, he founded his own practice and began mediating and practicing collaboratively right away.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be?

I had the courage to say to very experienced, senior litigation counsel: “Litigation and ADR involve very different skillsets. Excellence in one does not equate to excellence in the other, and in fact, the reverse is often true.”

Mentors or Influences?

Professor Patrick Parkinson (University of Sydney Law School), eminent Australian family lawyer and scholar, whose family law course involved a comprehensive moot settlement negotiation, and where I learned that family law is not a game. Also: Lisa Alexander (for teaching Mediation), Nancy Cameron, QC (for teaching Collaborative Law), and Carol Hickman, QC & Arlene Henry, QC (for teaching Med/Arb and Arbitration).

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?

Starting out as a lawyer practicing only ADR is tough because of the established “litigation machine.” There are no TV dramas about mediations or settlement agreements; and no law firm I know of will pay $120K a year to a new lawyer who just wants to mediate. But it is possible to succeed, and I think the key lies in finding ways to sell ADR the same way any successful enterprise sells any product. Understand that every person is a potential buyer, and it is imperative to take charge of the conversation. Create your clientele don’t wait for it to walk in the door.

Adam Rollins

Adam RollinsAdam Rollins, M.Ed., RCC, CRC is a registered clinical counsellor who provides therapeutic support to clients for a broad range of issues from personal, to relational, to workplace concerns. He has a Certificate in Conflict Resolution with a focus on mediation from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and works as a consultant and mediator with both familial and organizational matters. He was born and raised in BC and attended the University of British Columbia for both his undergraduate and masters degrees. Adam’s particular areas of interest and experience are supporting and teaching change management, stress in the workplace, and managing conflict within ourselves and with others. Working with individuals, and both small and large groups, Adam enjoys applying the practical skills he’s honed to everyday difficulties and instructing others on how they can bring positive change to their own lives.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be?

My career is where it is today because of the support I nearly forcefully sought out in the early stages from teachers, colleagues, and friends who worked in the same field I did. I made time to shadow as many of their classes, projects, and jobs as I could in order to appreciate the application of the theory I was learning in the classroom in a paid, practical setting. Watching skilled professionals who would sit and discuss their method with me allowed me to adapt and create my own style and learn the facets of the working world of dispute resolution.

Mentors or Influences? 

  1. Roy Johnson
  2. Sue Wazny
  3. Sherri Calder

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution? 

Take risks and try any and all dispute resolution jobs that you get the chance to go for. If you wait forever to be a master at something before you have the confidence to even attempt it, then you’ll never grow. When you get an opportunity to take on a task that you’ve never tried before, go for it and use all the resources at your disposal to learn from it and hopefully succeed at it: even failure is an occasion for growth.

Sharon Sutherland

Sharon SutherlandAfter law school at UBC (1992), Sharon articled in Toronto with a focus on litigation.  Mandatory mediation in civil disputes was introduced just as Sharon was called to the Bar, and her firm was incredibly supportive of her taking a lead in exploring the new practice.  Sharon entered the part time LL.M. in ADR at Osgoode, trained as a mediator with St. Stephen’s Community House, and undertook a practicum developing and delivering mediation training to law students and delivering day-of-trial mediations in Toronto Small Claims Court.

When Sharon moved back to Vancouver in 1997, she took on the role of co-Program Manager of the new Court Mediation Program.  Sharon has stayed involved in Mediate BC initiatives since that time, including working as Manager of Development and Trainer for the Child Mediation Practicum Program, mentoring, and participating in training initiatives.  In 2000, Sharon took on the role of Co-Director of the UBC Program on Dispute Resolution.  She taught mediation and other dispute resolution courses at UBC Law School for 14 years.

Sharon has also maintained an active mediation and mentoring practice.  Sharon is a founding member of CoRe Conflict Resolution Society and co-manages the CoRe Speaker Series.  Since 2014, Sharon has also worked as a Knowledge Engineer on the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

If you had to point to one factor that made a difference in the early development of your career, what would it be? 

I had tremendous support from the senior partners at my law firm when, as an articling student, I indicated that I wanted to develop expertise in mediation and mediation advocacy.  Rather than suggest that I needed grey hair to become involved in mediation, my principal made a point of both including me in mediations he attended, and in telling clients that he wanted my advice on process and strategy choices because I was immersed in the study of mediation and so had special expertise additional to that of the experienced litigators.  This acknowledgement that I was developing a distinct skill set that would benefit the firm generally and clients individually was a tremendous factor in giving me the confidence to approach the Small Claims Court to propose a pilot mediation program.<strong><em> </em></strong>

Mentors or Influences?

Jerry Birenbaum was my articling principal at (then) Birenbaum Koffman Steinberg.  Jerry’s recognition that mediation was not simply the practice of law, and required the development of different skills, was nearly unique at the time.  It led me to throw myself into developing that skillset from the very beginning of my practice.

Lee Turnbull was my co-Project Manager in the early days of the Court Mediation Practicum.  Her vast experience in the BC dispute resolution community was a wonderful resource that she generously shared. The ability to work through challenges in the program’s development, and to brainstorm new ideas, provided an incredibly rich learning experience for me.

Professor Emeritus John Hogarth, then Director of UBC’s Program on Dispute Resolution, hired me to work with him on a Community-University Research Project and gave me immense freedom to explore a wide range of dispute resolution research topics, to develop dispute resolution courses at UBC Law, and to be as intellectually curious as I liked (!) in the examination of all topics related to dispute resolution.

Advice to others seeking a first career in dispute resolution?


Photo by seabass creatives on Unsplash

5 Ways to Bridge the Gap Between Mediation Training and Practice

After a semester of mediation training and role-playing, I was assigned an employment law mediation. I arrived armed with mediation skills, copies of relevant employment law statutes, and an assortment of delicious protein bars. I was prepared – or so I thought. Within the first five minutes of the mediation, one party aggressively threw a heavy binder across the boardroom table at the other party. I was shocked. An uncomfortable silence filled the air. I did not know what to do. All I could think was: Why did this not happen in any of my role plays? Did I skip a chapter in my mediation skills handbook? Protein bar, anyone? Luckily, my experienced co-mediator jumped in and helped me get the mediation back on track. We separated the parties into breakout rooms and began a successful shuttle mediation. Crisis averted.

Mediation (Trial) By Fire

I realized at some point before law school that I wanted to pursue my first career in mediation. After completing mediation training, I was faced with a challenge familiar to new mediators: How do I gain experience in mediation without having experience in mediation? Fortunately, I discovered that this challenge can be overcome with creativity, resourcefulness, and determination. Sharon Sutherland, the curator of this blog series on First Careers in ADR, asked me to write about how I bridged the gap between mediation training and practice. 

1. Work at a Mediation Clinic

One of my goals in law school was to gain practical experience in mediation. Besides joining my dispute resolution board and participating in mediation competitions, I worked at my law school’s mediation clinic. Similar to working at a volunteer community clinic, I was able to gain real-world experience in a structured mediation program. My professor guided me through each stage of the mediation process including pre-mediation, co-mediation, and drafting agreements. Since the mediation clinic provided me with mediation referrals, professional liability insurance, and mediation forms, I was able to concentrate primarily on skill development. Moreover, working at the mediation clinic enriched my law school experience. I felt a sense of camaraderie working with other law students who shared my interest in dispute resolution. After completing my work at the mediation clinic, I received a professional reference which was valuable for obtaining mediation jobs and certifications.

2. Observe Mediations

After graduating law school, I initially gained experience by observing mediations. I arranged these opportunities through professional connections or simply by cold-calling mediators. Fortunately, I found that mediators, lawyers, and clients were supportive of my requests to gain entry into their boardrooms. I observed a variety of mediations with a variety of styles of mediators. For example, I was able to compare facilitative and evaluative mediation techniques. During each mediation, I job shadowed the mediator including shuttling back and forth between rooms. I carried a note pad to document effective mediation techniques and to practice tracking terms of the agreement. After each mediation, I conducted a debrief session with the mediator to review and assess what transpired during the mediation. This was my favorite part of the day because I gained valuable insight from the mediator (and found out what he or she really thought). I felt a sense of community while observing mediations since the mediators were generous with their time and went out of their way to provide me with a supportive learning environment. By observing mediations, I obtained a unique perspective and a comprehensive overview of the mediation process. I was also provided with an opportunity to start to consider the style of mediator I wanted to become and the type of mediation process I wanted to utilize in my practice. 

3. Work at a Mediation Organization

I gained experience by working as a Manager at Mediate BC where I co-developed the Family Mediation Program, an innovative program that provides improved provincial access to mediation services for families and mediation training for mediators. As a new mediator, I found that working at a mediation organization was a valuable learning experience. I gained insight into many aspects of the mediation process including pre-mediation orientations, screening for safety and appropriateness of mediation, mediation forms, and drafting agreements. I also acquired a breadth of knowledge about mediation services offered throughout the province – which is helpful information for mediation clients. During the implementation of the Family Mediation Program, I helped provide mediation support to lead mediators and trainees. As a result, I acquired a deeper understanding of mediation while working in a training capacity with other new mediators. An additional benefit to working at a mediation organization was that I acquired business contacts and started to build my reputation in the mediation community.

[Curator’s Note: Many mediation programs require part-time office assistance, and even where the job seems largely administrative, the work can be incredibly useful in developing greater fluency in speaking about mediation to potential clients, understanding the business-side of practice, and making connections. These administrative skills may well make a new mediator more valuable as a co-mediator (as Robert mentions in the next section).]

4. Co-mediate with an Experienced Mediator

Due to the complexities of mediation, I realized that I needed to gain extensive experience under the supervision of an experienced mediator. Therefore, I designed an independent practicum and became a certified mediator by completing many of the required co-mediation hours at an experienced mediator’s business. Considering the drawbacks of co-mediation for experienced mediators (including fee splitting, liability risk, and training responsibilities), I wanted to provide value to the experienced mediator’s business to create a mutually beneficial business relationship. I provided value to the experienced mediator’s business by sourcing mediation referrals, coordinating mediations and managing cases, conducting pre-mediation orientations, updating mediation forms and technology, tracking mediation terms and drafting agreements, and contributing to marketing and social media.

Besides earning mediation fees, I received many benefits through co-mediating with an experienced mediator.

  • First, I was able to gain valuable hands-on experience in a variety of mediations. As mediations can be unpredictable, emotional, and complex, I acquired a breadth of experience that prepared me for future mediations.
  • Second, I was able to practice my mediation skills on real cases under the supervision of an experienced mediator. I found that practicing my mediation skills in a safe training environment (and receiving personalized feedback during debriefing sessions) allowed me to build confidence, manage the emotional climate and power imbalances, and balance numerous moving parts during the mediation process. It also allowed me to gradually expand my role as a mediator and develop my mediation style. As a new mediator, I discovered that taking an active role in mediation demonstrated confidence to lawyers and clients which helped counteract any negative perceptions that they may have of inexperienced mediators.
  • Third, I was able to gain experience in every stage of the mediation process and every aspect of running a mediation business including case management, coordinating mediations, pre-mediation orientations, screening for safety and appropriateness of mediation, collecting fees, drafting agreements, and marketing and social media.
  • Fourth, I was provided with the opportunity to meet potential referral sources – lawyers and clients. During these co-mediations, I learned the importance of networking in building a successful practice. (For more information about co-mediation, please read Mediate BC’s blog series On Co-Mediation.)

5. Join a Mediation Practice Group

By joining a mediation practice group, I was able to acquire valuable insight from professionals with a variety of backgrounds including lawyers, therapists, and financial advisors. Similar to joining a listserv, I gained experience in mediation through group discussion of real cases and analysis of specific mediation issues. Often, I would seek input from the mediation practice group on challenging cases that I experienced as a mediator. Furthermore, I found that joining a mediation practice group was a valuable networking opportunity because it allowed me to develop business relationships with other dispute resolution professionals.

[Editor’s Note: There are a wide range of formal and informal, in-person and online mediation practice groups. You may wish to consider joining the Victoria or Vancouver Mediator Lounges, or set up a local Mediator Lounge for your area. In addition to the professional development opportunities Mediate BC provides, the upcoming ADRIC National Conference, Family Mediation Canada 30th Anniversary Conference or CLE’s Share the Land conference provide opportunities to discuss (and form) practice groups. CoRe Conflict Resolution Society also holds monthly events in-person or via livestream. In short, there’s no shortage of options and opportunities!]


By outlining the ways that I bridged the gap between mediation training and practice, I hope that I have provided some insight for new mediators on how to gain the experience necessary to mediate complex legal disputes and build a successful practice. Since I believe that mediation will continue to grow in popularity, I encourage new mediators to take advantage of these opportunities and continue to find a variety of creative ways to gain experience in mediation.

Rob Finlay

Guest blogger Rob Finlay earned his law degree from the Seattle University School of Law before joining Mediate BC where he co-developed the Family Mediation Services and Family Regional Mentoring Program (now revised as the Family Mediation Program). Rob is active as a mediator with Finlay Counselling & Mediation Services in New Westminister.



Photo (gif): Jason Bateman & Julia Louie-Dreyfus, Arrested Development; Justice is Blind via GIPHY