Today's Trailblazer Interview
Trailblazer: Charles Doran of Mediation Works, Inc.
Chuck Doran is a mediator who specializes in the resolution of workplace and business disputes. He is also founder and executive director of Mediation Works Incorporated (MWI) of Boston.
I'm curious. What did you do before your ADR work?
I was doing graduate work in dispute resolution at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. I guess I'm one of a new breed of practitioners who does not have a "POO" (Profession Of Origin) other than dispute resolution.
What best describes your title and what you do now?
The footer of my email says "Mediator / Executive Director", which sums up how I spend my time. I love to mediate as well as run Mediation Works Incorporated, a dispute resolution organization that I founded in 1994. In addition to being a mediator and running a business, I train people to become mediators and help others improve their capacity to negotiate effectively. I also facilitate meetings that are expected to be contentious and/or complex.
What did you do to get your first 5 clients? How did you market then?
I got my first five clients the same way I got my last 50 clients, that is, by keeping in mind that they expect excellent service and each client provides an opportunity to exceed their expectations and hopefully use me again or recommend me to colleagues. I find that traditional advertising has little impact on one's success in this field. Referrals and reputation seem to be key. I feel fortunate to be in this field and I know that I can't take it for granted.
Getting down to brass tacks, what were your initial fees?
When I started mediating in 1992, my focus was on gaining experience and not on fees. As a result, I mediated hundreds of cases in district court and elsewhere at no charge. I found that I was charging anywhere from $25 to $250 per party, per hour a few years later. I'm still in that range, but luckily on the higher end these days.
Which books, websites, discussion groups, or organizations helped you get your foot in the door?
Organizations - The Harvard Mediation Program at Harvard Law School (where I got my start mediating and later was hired to manage their Advanced Mediation Program) was a great experience. Forums - I have found Cornell's Dispute-Res Listserv and the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution Listserv to be interesting forums for practitioners to share ideas.
Mistakes, I've made a few. What do you WISH you knew when you started out?
I learned a lot from observing more experienced mediators mediating. I wish I had done more when I had more time. I also know it's not too late.
OK, one silly question to wrap things up. A dispute resolver is like a (blank).
I think of a dispute resolver as like a host of a party. They invite people over, set a comfortable and conducive environment for conversation, and encourage guests to engage in new and interesting conversations. I guess two big differences are that this kind of party is not that much fun and there are no drinks involved.