Choosing a mediator from a reputable organization is critical to ensure the parties feel comfortable that the mediator will remain neutral, says Rupa S. Lloyd, JD, shareholder with the GrayRobinson law firm in Gainesville, FL.

There are Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, which are followed by the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA), the American Bar Association, and the American Arbitration Association, she notes. These standards impose important safeguards, such as impartiality, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and competence.

The AHLA has a standard Agreement to Mediate that is signed by the participants at the outset to set forth basic safeguards, such as disclosing any conflicts of interest with the mediator and keeping confidential any information and statements that occur during the mediation.

Mediation often is conducted by retired judges, notes David L. Gordon, JD, shareholder with the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in Princeton, NJ. A retired judge may be a good choice as mediator when the issues in dispute are more legal rather than factual in nature. A retired judge can help the parties see the strengths and weaknesses of their legal arguments, he says.