New course of study approved for family law mediators

On February 6, 2003 the Practice Standards Committee approved a new course of study in family law mediation under Law Society Rule 3-20 (1)(b) as an alternative to the 40-hour (5-day) Family Law Mediation Course offered by the Continuing Legal Education Society. Until now, the CLE course was the only one approved by the Law Society for the accreditation of family law mediators. This change offers lawyers additional flexibility.

Section 29 of the Legal Profession Act authorizes the Benchers to make rules establishing the qualifications for and conditions under which practising lawyers may practise as mediators. To date, the Law Society offers accreditation only in the field of family law mediation.

Rule 3-20(1) provides that a lawyer may act as a family law mediator only if the lawyer has engaged in the full-time practice of law for at least three years (or the equivalent in part- time practice) and has completed a course of study in family law mediation approved by the Practice Standards Committee. Under Rule 3-20(2) the Committee may allow a lawyer with special qualifications or experience to act as a family law mediator without the practice experience requirement.

The new alternative course of family law mediation study consists of the following, (or the equivalent*):

1. Mediation Skills Level I, offered by the Justice Institute;

2. any of the following Family Dynamics courses offered by the Justice Institute:

a) CORR 605: Family Violence

b) FAM 103: Effects of Separation and Divorce on Adults

c) FAM 104: Effects of Separation and Divorce on Children; and

3. Day V of the Family Law Mediation Course offered by CLE.

*Note: A lawyer seeking to have other courses approved as equivalents must make application to the Practice Standards Committee.

A lawyer who is accredited as a family law mediator may refer to the accreditation in any marketing activity: see Chapter 14, Rule 19 of the Professional Conduct Handbook.

Family law mediators must comply with Appendix 2 of the Handbook (which sets out the conduct expected of a mediator), as well the other Handbook rules to the extent those rules are not inconsistent with Appendix 2: see Chapter 6, Rule 9 of the Handbook.

Lawyers should also note that a Law Society Task Force has undertaken a broad-based review of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation. A report to the Benchers is expected this year.