Tips for Conducting a Successful Arbitration

Arbitration is an effective method of deciding contested legal issues without the delay and expense of litigation. Contracts and employment contracts often specify that arbitration will be the forum for resolving all disputes that may arise.  In most cases, the arbitrator’s decision is final and binding on the parties. For that reason, the parties must present their cases with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Although arbitration is not as formal as a court trial, there are certain similarities. The arbitrator — whether an individual or a panel — adopts and enforces rules for conducting discovery, for admitting and weighing evidence and for hearing arguments and objections. The arbitrator’s decisions therefore carry a great deal of weight, and this makes it essential to put forethought into how the arbitrator is to be chosen. In addition, making a strong case in arbitration requires special skills and techniques.

The following are some pointers for using arbitration successfully:

  • Research the arbitrator — Having some knowledge of the arbitrator’s background, education and employment history can be very helpful. The arbitrator’s biography is a good indicator of how much he or she knows about a certain subject. The party and their attorney can tailor the presentation accordingly.
  • Survey the site — In most cases, the parties have prior access to the facility in which the arbitration will be held. It can be useful to do a site survey. The size and layout of the room might limit the volume of evidence to be submitted, as well as how many people can be present.
  • Know the rules — Depending upon the nature of the arbitration, the parties may be subject to a set of rules, such as the AAA Commercial Arbitration Rules. The attorneys must thoroughly understand the relevant rules in order to use the procedure to its fullest advantage.
  • Keep your opening statement simple — How you frame your argument at the beginning of the proceeding can set the tone for the duration of the case. Present your statement in a straightforward way, focusing on the most important objectives you wish to achieve.
  • Don’t hold back key evidence — Sometimes, litigators leave the best evidence off the table in arbitration because they mistakenly believe it cannot be considered. The rules for admissibility are far more flexible in arbitration. Make sure you bring all relevant evidence to the arbitrator’s attention.
  • Maintain decorum — Parties and their representatives should maintain a high level of professionalism at all times. Treat arbitrators as though they were judges. An attorney may be tempted to speak “off the cuff” in the relatively relaxed environment of an arbitration, but this can put the arbitrator in an awkward position.

Quinn & Kronlund LLP in Stockton, California has deep experience as a provider of alternative dispute resolution, including arbitration. Feel free to contact us online or call 209-943-3950 to learn more about the services we offer.