Choosing the Right Arbitrator

AM Editorial Team

Updated on:

Selecting the right arbitrator is pivotal for ensuring both the efficiency and fairness of the arbitration process. 

In alternative dispute resolution, the chosen arbitrator carries the responsibility of guiding disputing parties to a conclusive decision, marking the importance of selection with due care. 

The criteria to keep in mind extend beyond credentials, encapsulating experience, impartiality, and approachability. 

It is not merely about finding an adept legal mind but also about securing someone who can handle the specific nuances and complexities of the case at hand.

The process of choosing an arbitrator warrants thoughtful consideration of their role in the realm of disputes. 

They serve as the architect of proceedings, tasked with structuring a conducive environment for dispute resolution. 

It involves an intricate balance, managing legal expertise with the capacity to navigate through the evidence and arguments presented by the parties impartially. 

Their procedural decisions can significantly impact the arbitrations trajectory, underscoring the gravity of making an informed choice.

When engaging in international arbitration, one must consider the procedural rules and cultural factors that could influence the arbitrator’s decision-making process. 

It is essential to weigh these aspects when choosing an arbitrator to foster a sense of trust in their ability to render a just outcome. 

The right arbitrator understands that at the heart of their duty is to deliver a resolution that withstands scrutiny, serving the interests of justice and upholding the integrity of the arbitral process.

An arbitrator sitting at a table, listening attentively to both parties, with a thoughtful expression and a neutral demeanor

Understanding Arbitration

Arbitration is a formal alternative to litigation where a neutral third party the arbitrator renders a decision after a hearing. 

This legal process aims to resolve disputes in a setting that is often less formal than court proceedings.

Core Principles of Arbitration

In arbitration, fairness and impartiality are paramount. 

The parties rely on an independent arbitrator to review the case without bias. 

Arbitration is a binding procedure, which means the decision, unless otherwise agreed upon, is final and enforceable in a court of law. 

The parties involved in the arbitration have a mutually agreed upon limitation in their ability to contest the outcome as opposed to more extensive appeal options available in typical court proceedings.

Arbitrators must strictly adhere to procedural rules, often pre-determined by the parties or stipulated by the institutional body overseeing the arbitration. 

Unlike mediation, where a mediator facilitates both sides to come to a mutual agreement, an arbitrator has the power to make a final decision. 

As arbitration is a legal process, arbitrators may be selected based on their legal expertise and experience with the specific type of dispute or industry involved.

The Arbitration Process

The arbitration process generally follows a streamlined path as compared to litigation, emphasizing efficiency and case management. 

It begins with the submission of a dispute to an arbitration institution or an arbitrator, followed by the necessary proceedings

Parties may engage in limited discovery the exchange of evidence and information pertinent to the arbitration case.

Hearings in arbitration are used to present oral arguments, witness testimonies, and evidence, which are similar to a trial but contain relaxed evidentiary rules. 

After the hearing, the arbitrator will deliberate and issue an award, which is the arbitrators decision regarding the outcome of the dispute.

Types of Arbitration

Arbitration can be categorized primarily into domestic and international arbitration.

  • Domestic arbitration is used to resolve disputes within the borders of one country and typically adheres to the nations statutes and domestic legal frameworks.
  • International arbitration deals with disputes between parties from different countries and often involves complex legal and procedural issues such as the application of international treaties and different legal systems.

These types of arbitration can also vary based on their procedural rules, subject matter, the number of arbitrators, and many other aspects that parties should consider when electing arbitration as their dispute resolution method.

Criteria for Selecting an Arbitrator

A group of individuals reviewing qualifications and experience of potential arbitrators, discussing and evaluating their expertise and suitability for the role

Selecting the right arbitrator is a critical step in the arbitration process, as it affects the fairness, efficiency, and quality of the outcome. 

Specific criteria should be thoroughly evaluated to ensure that the chosen arbitrator aligns with the needs of the case at hand.

Assessing Expertise and Experience

Expertise: It is essential to confirm that the arbitrator has specialized knowledge relevant to the subject matter of the dispute. 

For example, an arbitrator with a background in intellectual property law would be better suited for a case involving patent issues.

Experience: The number of years and the breadth of the arbitrators experience also play a significant role. 

One should look for an individual with a substantial track record of resolving disputes within the specific legal context of the case. 

They should have served as both an arbitrator and possibly a judge or lawyer in similar proceedings.

Considering Availability and Efficiency

Availability: The potential arbitrator ought to have the time required to devote to the case. 

It is important for the arbitrator to be readily available and committed to conducting the arbitration in an efficient and expeditious manner.

Efficiency: Their history with case management and the ability to conduct hearings in a cost-effective way should be factored into the decision-making process. 

Ideally, a candidate’s approach to arbitration should save both time and costs without sacrificing quality of service.

Evaluating Integrity and Impartiality

Integrity: An arbitrator’s reputation for uprightness is crucial. 

They should have a consistent record of ethical conduct and decision-making in line with the highest standards of the profession.

Impartiality and Independence: To ensure due process, an arbitrator must be impartial, making decisions based solely on the facts and applicable law. 

They should be free of any conflicts of interest and must maintain independence throughout the arbitration process. 

The absence of bias is foundational to the integrity of the arbitration’s outcome.

The Role of Professional Networks

A group of professionals discussing and evaluating potential arbitrators, exchanging information and opinions in a collaborative and informed manner

Professional networks play a crucial role in guiding parties through the maze of selecting suitably qualified arbitrators. 

They offer access to recommendations, directories, and insights into the arbitrator’s expertise, diversity, and nationality considerations.

Using Recommendations and Directories

Finding the right arbitrator often begins with soliciting recommendations from trusted colleagues within professional networks

Attorneys and counsel may rely on these networks to identify individuals whose past rulings and expertise are aligned with the specifics of the case in question. 

Additionally, directories provided by esteemed organizations like the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators offer a structured list of professionals categorized by area of specialty, experience, and credentials.

  • Professional Recommendations:
    • Solicit from colleagues within legal and arbitration networks.
    • Consider feedback from judges and other legal professionals.
  • Directories:
    • Utilize resources like the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
    • Search based on specific criteria such as legal speciality and case relevance.

Importance of Diversity and Nationality

Diversity in the panel of arbitrators ensures a broad range of perspectives, which can lead to a more equitable and insightful resolution process. 

Taking into account the nationality of arbitrators is also paramount, as it can mitigate potential biases and lend international legitimacy to the arbitration process.

  • Diversity Considerations:
    • Aim for a balance of cultural and professional backgrounds.
    • Seek out varied legal traditions to enhance the robustness of the deliberation.
  • Nationality Preferences:
    • Ensure a mix of nationalities to avoid any appearance of bias.
    • Opt for arbitrators with a global understanding if a dispute crosses international borders.

Finalizing the Arbitrator Selection

Selecting the right arbitrator is crucial for a fair and cost-effective resolution to litigation. 

The final steps involve a careful review of the candidates’ credentials and a thorough understanding of the cost implications.

Reviewing CVs and Feedback from Past Cases

When assessing potential arbitrators, it is essential to examine their CVs in detail, considering their expertise in relation to the dispute. 

The CVs often contain their professional history, areas of specialization, and academic qualifications. 

One should also seek feedback from past cases, which can provide valuable insights into an arbitrator’s reputation and trustworthiness

This feedback can typically be found in peer reviews, published awards, or from direct references.

Understanding Costs and Fees

The costs and fees associated with appointing an arbitrator must be clearly understood and agreed upon before making a selection. 

Cost-effectiveness is important, and parties should be clear about what the fees cover, including any potential per diem or administrative charges. 

Typically, a detailed fee schedule is provided, which should be studied carefully to avoid surprises later in the process. It may include hourly rates, retainer fees, and other expenses related to the arbitration.