A common misconception in the legal field is that judges are the only individuals capable of deciding a case’s outcome. In reality, an influential alternative exists for parties to consider: arbitration. While going through the totality of a trial can take years, large amounts of money, and prove emotionally draining, arbitration offers the possibility for a more expedient and cheaper alternative while retaining many of the benefits of pleading your case to a judge. To understand whether arbitration is right for your case, we must understand what arbitration is, what are its benefits, and what makes a good arbitrator.
What is arbitration?
In arbitration, a single “arbitrator” or a panel of (usually 3) “arbitrators” are selected and agreed upon by both parties in the lawsuit to take on the role of the judge. These arbitrators are private, independent legal professionals who learn the facts of the case, determine the law and/or industry custom that applies, and determine the outcome of the trial, including who wins and what sorts of compensation is available. The arbitration decision can either be binding, where it is court enforced and can only be appealed on narrow grounds, or it can be nonbinding, where it is only enforced if both parties agree to the decision.
What are the benefits of arbitration?
One of the largest benefits of arbitration is the flexibility and expediency available to both parties. Rather than conforming to all the complicated and rigid steps set up by federal and state laws in the courtroom, arbitration allows for parties to expand the scope of options available and speed the process along considerably, saving valuable time and money. Arbitration also allows the parties to get a better understanding of the way their case might look in front of a judge, receiving a decision from the arbitrator(s) that can be as short or as long as requested to get a better idea of how the case might be determined. Another important benefit to arbitration is the confidential nature of the process. Compared to a court trial, where records are public, arbitration and the decision can be done completely privately, saving individuals from having to publicly reveal important trade secrets or personal details. Arbitration also allows parties to seek out experts in the field of the case, making explanation of events and evidence more efficient and easier than describing them to a judge who may have little familiarity on the topic.
What makes a good arbitrator?
A good arbitrator should first and foremost prove an ability to understand the process of arbitration and approach a case fairly. Understanding the ins and outs of the legal industry can be complicated, even during arbitration proceedings, so it is important to find arbitrators who have experience with the law and understand how it ought to be considered and applied. A good arbitrator will often have experience in the field of the case, allowing them familiarity when considering issues such as repair costs, damage done, lost wages, and more. Having an arbitrator without a strong background, experience, and training in the field can leave them scrambling to quickly determine and rule on the facts of the case, making their decision more rushed and less valuable for the parties involved. A good arbitrator should also be able to approach a case without bias towards either side, frequently found in individuals who have practiced on both sides of the law. While having 10 years of experience fighting for defendants may make someone a great attorney, having 10 years of experience fighting for defendants and another 10 years of experience fighting for plaintiffs is likely to make someone a great arbitrator, as they hold considerable knowledge in the field on both sides and are able to approach cases without bias to either side. If you are considering arbitration for your case, make sure to speak with a professional and experienced arbitrator who can better explain how arbitration applies to your case and can help you reach a faster, cheaper, and more agreeable outcome.