On Co-Mediation Part II by Nick de Domenico

Today’s guest blogger is Nick de Domenico, a Mediate BC Civil Roster mediator whose mediation practice focuses largely on personal injury and is a member of the Mediate BC Roster CommitteeNick keeps a busy civil mediation practice in the Greater Vancouver area, njd.ca.

This is the third post in our “On Co-Mediation” series. Read the other posts here:

Introduction | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

Nick de Domenico

Nick de Domenico

In Part I, I expanded upon how the applicant (Ms Sainty) and I saw benefits in our partnership, confirmed our pairing and began the process of working with mediation parties in seeking their permission to proceed with a co-mediation model. Below, I would like to continue and expand upon the co-mediation structure we employed, and the benefits, as I see them, of our co-mediation approach.

Our Co-Mediation Structure (or Process)
Observation status provided the applicant with an upfront and personal view of the professional world that I live in without the pressure of taking on any responsibility for the outcome.

It allowed us both the opportunity to confirm, or reverse our decision to engage and gave us both the opportunity to set up the mechanics of a working relationship.

After three ‘observation’ mediations we began, over the next ten mediations, to gradually increase the applicant’s active role in the process as a co-mediator.

Once the applicant was accepted as co-mediator on a given file, I would send the applicant the confirmation note listing time and place and persons involved together with the briefs from the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s).

That was followed by a half hour meeting at the mediation location ahead of the arrival of any of the other participants.  Here we exchanged impressions, identified issues and considered a general approach.

During the mediation, we would have ongoing chats, exchanging ideas and perspectives as the matter evolved. Immediately following the mediation we would debrief for a half hour or so.

The Benefits of Co-Mediating at the Table
That whole process took about five months. Ms Sainty has submitted her application and has recently been accepted to the Civil Mediator Roster at the time of this writing. I am confident that she will be a valuable addition to the Roster and will effectively promote the idea of mediation within the litigation community, to the benefit of us all in the future. There are however more specific benefits for all involved that I will comment on briefly in the remaining paragraphs of this article.

This structure provided a source of candid feedback from the applicant on my own actions. While Ms. Sainty was new to role of mediator she comes to this process as a very experienced lawyer and recently retired member of the judiciary so her observations, opinions and questions, focused as they were in large part on my role as mediator, were of great value to me.

In the future, she will, where appropriate, introduce me as co-mediator to her clients, using a similar process. This will provide me with paid work I would not otherwise get and allow me to recoup the portion of fees that I shared with Ms. Sainty in her fulfillment of her paid mediation requirement.

Further, supported by Ms. Sainty’s experience and knowledge, I will in turn be provided with the opportunity to gain experience mediating in areas of law I have not previously worked in.

From the clients’ perspective, during these thirteen mediations, our ongoing dialogue helped maintain a higher level of objectivity and a wider range of options than I believe would have been available were I working in isolation.

Finally, both Ms. Sainty’s clients and my own may benefit in the future in that they will have a safe introduction to an alternate mediator that they can turn to in situations where their first choice may not be available on a preferred date.

I’ll end on a turn of the classic phrase, for new mediators generally or to specific areas of law, to established mediators, to lawyers looking for broadening their reliable service provider base, and for clients working with counsel within the mediation process, co-mediation in the context of ‘new’ mediators is definitely a win-win-win-win.

Find out more about Nick’s co-mediator, Kathryn Sainty.

Part III of the “On Co-Mediation” series is written from the perspective of a Family Roster mediator and lead-mediator in the Mediate BC Family Mediation Program.

Categories: MediateBC, Mediation, Mentoring, On Co-Mediation

On Co-Mediation Part I by Nick de Domenico

Today’s guest blogger is Nick de Domenico, a Mediate BC Civil Roster mediator whose mediation practice focuses largely on personal injury and is a member of the Mediate BC Roster Committee. Nick keeps a busy civil mediation practice in the Greater Vancouver area, njd.ca.

This is the second post in our “On Co-Mediation” series. Read the other posts here:

Introduction | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

Nick de Domenico

Nick de Domenico

I recently had the very positive experience of co-mediating with a new applicant to the Civil Roster. I thought I would share what happened on this blog as I saw benefit obtained not just by the applicant in terms of fulfilling the paid mediation requirement for Roster membership, but also as a learning process for both of us, and as considerable added value to my clients and to my practice as a mediator.

If you are looking for an opportunity to fulfill the paid mediation requirement for Roster membership or are an established mediator that has been approached by someone in that position, you might find something here worth adapting to your own particular situation. Some have already been down this path and might wish to add to what I put out here in a subsequent blog of your own.

In the preparation of this article I was fortunate to have Michael Lomax, a very experienced mediator situated in Victoria, provide me with his thoughts on co-mediation. I was also fortunate to have Ms. Kathryn Sainty, recently retired Registrar of the Supreme Court of BC as the applicant.

For myself, I have developed an important and beneficial strategic alliance. We are both now able to broaden each other’s client base, offer a greater range of technical expertise and experience, and provide an additional product in terms of an established co-mediation model for certain situations.

Essential to a successful mentoring program the applicant and Roster mediator need to have mutual respect, complementary skills and the potential for a broader client base. They can then combine these business assets to build a strong professional relationship that benefits themselves, their clients and the public generally.

Ms. Sainty and I are not unique in generating this sort of combination. I would encourage the reader to consider how their particular strengths might combine with others they know when the opportunity to bring new mediators into our world presents itself.

Confirming the Pairing
Ms. Sainty and I share a mutual acquaintance, whom we have both known for many years and have a good deal of respect for.  It was this person that put us together. So we came to each other with the confidence of a sound recommendation.

We interviewed each other and then did further referencing.

On mutual endorsement, the next step was to set up three mediations where the applicant attended strictly as an observer.

Getting Permission from the Parties
I am a civil mediator specializing in litigated, personal injury cases.  While there is of course a clear and significant human element involved in these sorts of mediations, they are ultimately about making a business decision on the litigated value of an insurance claim. As a rule they do not demand the sort of sensitivity that I imagine mediations on divorce, child custody and the like do. I would leave it to family mediators to provide their perspective on how they might safely foster an inexperienced mediator into that sort of process.

I relied on my clients to determine whether situational sensitivity would preclude a new mediator from being part of their process.

I provided them with the name and background information of the applicant and confirmed in my request that the interests of my clients were paramount and they were free to decline the request if they thought those interests were going to be adversely affected.  Some did in fact pass on those grounds. Most did not. Once consent was given, the applicant performed her conflict of interest assessment.

On a final point about the invitation, I kept the identities of those clients I was making the request for cooperation confidential from the applicant. We are a relatively small community and I wanted to eliminate any pressure that might be felt in a rejection of the applicant as co-mediator, no matter how valid the reason.

Read the continuation of Nick’s post as he discusses the co-mediation structure he and the applicant employed and the benefits of co-mediation as he sees them in Part II of the “On Co-Mediation” series.

On Co-Mediation: A Short Series Introduction

Today’s guest blogger is Monique Steensma, CEO of Mediate BC.
This is the first post in our “On Co-Mediation” series. Read the other posts here:

Introduction | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

Monique Steensma

Monique Steensma

In mediation, as with many fields, getting practical experience is essential for building a practice. Mediate BC has supported mediators in gaining this experience for many years through various programs, and one of the surprising factors that we hear about is how co-mediation benefits the more experienced mediator as well as the newly trained mediator.

In co-mediation the two mediators work as a team, and in most cases one of the co-mediators is more experienced than the other. Co-mediation is not an observation process; the less experienced mediator is an active part of the team, and usually takes on more and more responsibility in the process as he or she gains experience.

Over the next few months, we will be presenting a series about co-mediation here that will include:

  • Senior civil and family mediators who have co-mediated with less experienced mediators will share their stories about these experiences.
  • A very experienced mentor will discuss the business rationale for co-mediating as well as the practical aspects of co-mediation such as fees and presenting the concept to clients.
  • A recap of what we learned about co-mediation during our Child Protection Mediator Co-mediation Project.

We are not oblivious to the fact that some mediators have concerns about co-mediating; however, we believe that these concerns should be considered in balance with the potential benefits. With this series, we hope to create a broad understanding about the co-mediation process, so that mediators can consider the benefits and drawbacks if they are asked to co-mediate.

Please join in the discussion as we move through the series and share your experiences, questions and concerns about co-mediation.

ODR tools for kids?

The use of technology is definitely increasing in the conflict resolution field. In BC, ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) is a key component of the Civil Resolution Tribunal, MyLawBC and the Mediate BC ODR Pilot (Robson Square small claims disputes). We expect that the younger generation will adopt these tools more readily than older folks (with some exceptions of course!) so a good question is:

How are we engaging with young people to assist them to engage with conflict in a healthy way using technology?

OTTER - Online Dispute Resolution for Kids

OTTER – Online Dispute Resolution for Kids

A new platform has been developed by Kelly Sorbera and Alec Go especially for kids. It is called OTTER, “an award-winning online dispute resolution (ODR) solution that includes an “automated mediator” and other dispute resolution tools to help kids resolve conflicts.” OTTER was originally presented at ODR2014 where it was awarded 1st place in the Tech For Justice Hackathon. Check out the description and information video here.

You will note that OTTER was seeking backing through Kickstarter, but did not achieve its funding goal. Mediate BC is not endorsing this product but we think it is definitely worth taking a look to see what the future might hold!

  • What do you think about OTTER?
  • Do you think early awareness and education for children about effective conflict engagement is important?
  • How do you think technology can assist?
  • What dispute resolution projects are you involved with for children and youth? Is technology playing a critical role?

Share in the comments below!

Volunteers Are a Big Part of Mediate BC’s Success

As April is Volunteer Recognition month, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have volunteered their time on behalf of Mediate BC in the past year. By participating in our public events and writing for our blog, volunteers have put in many hours to help educate the public about mediation as an option in a variety of contexts.

Volunteering is an enriching experience for everyone involved. Members of the public are learning about mediation as an option to help them effectively deal with the conflict that inevitably enters their lives and workplaces. Other organizations learn about resources to provide to their clients who experience conflict. Mediate BC benefits enormously as you help us provide a much broader public outreach than we could otherwise. Finally, volunteering helps the volunteers themselves to promote their practices, to connect with other mediators, and to provide a real value to the public.

We have had volunteer participation for many years and in the past year we stepped up our game significantly in providing volunteer opportunities tors at events to mark Conflict Resolution Week and Family Day.

I hope that we can provide even more opportunities in the coming year. Keep an eye out calls for volunteers in our newsletters if you would like to get involved, and if you have ideas for new avenues for Mediate BC and our Roster Mediators to support your organization or community through volunteering, please get in touch!

Thank you to our 2014/2015 volunteers! We appreciate your generosity and support.

Rahul Aggarwal
Rebecca Alleyne
Grace Baker
Nancy Baker
Audra Bayer
Sheila Begg
Kathleen Bellamano
Fazal Bhimji
Patsy Bourassa
George Brose
Catherine Brink
Colleen Cattell
Bev Churchill
Mike Collyer
Anouk Crawford
Jen Crawford
Julie Daum
Jamie Elrington
Jenn Errico
Jory Faibish
Gary Fitzpatrick
Brian Gibbard
Bob Groves
Neil Hain
Leanne Harder
Brenda Hooper
Darrin Hotte
Kyra Hudson
Doug Husband
Roy Johnson
Sandra Kahle
Darlene Kavka
Sharon Kelly
Vivian Kerenyi
Aurora Johannson
Wendy Lakusta
Michael Lomax
Yuki Matsuno
Sandy Milne
Ron Monk
Elaine McCormack
Julia Menard
Liza Miles
Dan Miller
Kevin Moye
Liana Murphy
Bill Murphy-Dyson
Leslie Palleson
Shelina Neallani
Viola Neufeld
Alex Ning
Chris Ortner
Emily Pos
Janko Predovic
John Radford
Karen Redmond
Amy Robertson
Christiaan Rothman
Marlene Russo
Elise Schopper-Brigel
Colleen Selby
Shamim Shivji
Ron Smith
Susan Smith
Donna Soules
Norm Smookler
Colin Spencer
Sharon Sutherland
Paul Taberner
Yannie Tai
Tammy Van Hinte
Lori Williams
Ben Ziegler


I would also like to recognize our Board of Directors and members of our Roster Committee, all of whom serve on a volunteer basis. Their guidance and oversight is invaluable to Mediate BC. These are time-consuming and intense volunteer roles that provide an enormous benefit to all of us in the mediation community.Thank you to all the current and past Directors and Roster Committee members who served Mediate BC over the past year:

Board of Directors
• Peter Behie, Board Chair
• Gail Bedard
• Judge Andrea Brownstone
• Ian Doddington
• Brian Gibbard
• Jean Greatbatch
• Bill Keen
• Michael Lomax
• Jane Morley
• Wayne Plenert
• Judge Donna Senniw
• Paul Taberner
Roster Committee
• Sheila Begg
• Nick de Domenico
• Arlene Henry
• Carol Hickman
• Michael Lomax
• Wayne Plenert

Thank you all!

Monique Steensma
CEO, Mediate BC

The New CEO of Mediate BC

Monique Steensma

Monique Steensma

I am very happy to be writing my first message to you as CEO of Mediate BC!

I have been part of this organization since 2005 when I completed the Court Mediation Practicum, and then went on to be a Small Claims Mediator, a member of the Civil Roster with a private mediation practice, and most recently, Manager of the Court Mediation and Roster Programs. Now, I look forward to continuing to build on our successes and find new opportunities.

Kari Boyle has done an extraordinary job of leading Mediate BC forward for the last nine years, and I only hope I can live up to the example she has set for leadership of this organization and in this community. I am very happy that she is staying on as the Director of Strategic Initiatives, as I know that I will continue to benefit from her wise guidance as I step into my new role.

I look forward to forging new relationships and reconnecting with our stakeholders, including people and organizations seeking ways to manage and resolve their disputes; mediators and those aspiring to become mediators; and representatives of the many other organizations with whom we collaborate and serve.

Please get in touch if you have any thoughts or questions that you would like to share, or just would like to say hello. You can reach me at 604-684-1300 ext. 200, or by email.

I also invite you to connect in the digital world if you have not done so already, you can find me on Twitter at @MoniqueSteensma or on LinkedIn at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/moniquesteensma.


Monique Steensma
CEO, Mediate BC

The Law Society of BC, the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” and Mediation

If I am a mediator, but not a practicing lawyer in BC, when do I cross the line into the “practice of law”? What does that line look like? Is there a line at all? How does this affect how I practice mediation and serve my clients?

These are thorny questions. They are not new and mediators in BC and abroad have been struggling with them for decades.

Over the years, the Law Society of BC has received complaints that mediators have crossed the line and, in some cases, has sought ‘undertakings’ from these mediators that they will change their activities and in other cases has applied to the Supreme Court for an injunction prohibiting that mediator from engaging in the practice of law.

Mediate BC’s Rosters include mediators from a wide variety of backgrounds and we celebrate this diversity and the range of services that are available to BC citizens to resolve their disputes. Mediate BC wants to support Roster mediators by helping to clarify what the “practice of law” means to them and how to avoid a Law Society complaint.

We are pleased to advise that the Law Society of BC has recently released an “Information Bulletin” entitled the “Unauthorized practice of law” which tackles this issue directly.

LSBC Info Bulletin Unauthorized Practice of Law

The bulletin highlights the situations involving particular risk:

  • Advising mediation participants on the law or their legal rights
  • Drafting enforceable contracts (including advice on how to structure their agreement)

While this bulletin is helpful, we see it as only the first step of a dialogue, first with the BC mediation community, and then with the Law Society of BC. Mediation is a key part of an effective access to justice strategy and the Law Society of BC supports the creation of new categories of “legal service providers” (regulated by the Law Society). So an important additional question needs to be addressed: How, and to what extent, can BC mediators who are not practicing lawyers provide services to the public that would, under the current definition, be considered the “practice of law”?

Mediate BC is organizing a community dialogue process over the next several months to discuss the Information Bulletin and these other important questions. We are very keen to obtain your input and ideas. Please watch for more information about dates/times/locations for these sessions.

Thank you,

Kari D. Boyle
Executive Director, Mediate BC

Family Mediators are Available Across BC

AvailableMediate BC has a roster of family mediators who have met our stringent requirements in:

  • Training (mediation, family dynamics, safety screening, etc.)
  • Experience (experience as a family mediator)
  • Professionalism (adhering to our Standards of Conduct, ongoing professional development and more)

If you need a family mediator in BC, visit our Family Mediator Roster where you can search based on your location, the specific issues to your case, cost and other factors. Our Roster Program staff and Roster mediators would be happy to assist you in determining if mediation is right for you.


Mediate BC is hosting a panel discussion with family mediators in Surrey on February 17, 2015 and our LTIO Familyfamily mediators are in Provincial Courthouses across the province providing information about family mediation to those engaged in the process of separation and divorce.

For a full listing of information table locations, dates and times, please click here.

Categories: Access to justice, Family Mediation, MediateBC, Mediation, Separation and Divorce

Family Mediation is Timely


Legal disputes in the court system can take months or even years to complete.  The longer a family dispute takes to resolve the higher the financial and emotional toll on the family.  This is where mediation can help.

A Department of Justice Canada study in 2007 found that cases which included mediation resolved about 5 months faster than those which did not. That’s 20 weeks, or 140 days of less stress and emotional turmoil a person would have to endure and time that could be spent moving forward.

Mediation is available any time – even before court action is started.


Mediate BC is hosting a panel discussion with family mediators in Surrey on February 17, 2015 and our family mediators are in Provincial Courthouses across the province providing information about family mediation to those engaged in the process of separation and divorce.

Today, family mediators are providing information in Provincial Courthouses in:LTIO Family

  • Richmond (7577 Elmbridge Way, 9:00am – 4:00pm)
  • Surrey (14340 – 57th Ave., 9:00am – 4:00pm)
  • Victoria (850 Burdett Ave., 9:00am – 12:00pm)

For a full listing of information table locations, dates and times, please click here.

Family Mediation is Affordable


The Mediate BC Mediator Survey 2014 showed just how much more affordable family mediation can be on average when compared to litigation. The survey found that average total mediation fees were less than $2,000 ($1,784 to be precise).  Since parties usually share this total cost, the average cost to each party to a mediation would be less than $1,000.

The 2014 Canadian Lawyer magazine fee survey found that the average total legal fees for a family court case up to and including a two-day trial were $14,500 per party (or $29,000  total).

While not all court cases will end up in a two-day trial and mediation time can vary by the number and complexity of the issues, the difference is significant.  Mediation can be a much more affordable option for families.


Mediate BC is hosting a panel discussion with family mediators in Surrey on February 17, 2015 and our family mediators are in Provincial Courthouses across the province providing information about family mediation to those engaged in the process of separation and divorce.

Today, family mediators are providing information in Provincial Courthouses in:LTIO Family

  • Kamloops (455 Columbia St., 9:00am – 12:00pm)
  • Salmon Arm (550 – 2nd Ave., 9:00am – 12:00pm)

For a full listing of information table locations, dates and times, please click here.