If you like a career that helps parties resolve conflicts without having to go through the lengthy legal process, you can consider becoming an arbitrator. In this profession, you try to facilitate dialogue between the parties involved in a disagreement in the hope that they will eventually reach a mutual understanding. You will act as an impartial party to the case, hearing both sides and making sure that each side understands the concerns, needs and issues of the other. You hold meetings with the parties involved and introduce to them how the arbitration process will proceed.
In certain cases, you may not necessarily try to guide the disputants to a resolution of the problem. Rather, you may be tasked with handling procedural issues. For example, you will decide on the evidence that will have to be submitted, the number of witnesses that will be presented, the schedule of the hearings and other procedural matters. In other cases, you may be called upon to hear the parties that have agreed to voluntary arbitration to solve their problem than go through a full-blown trial.
To prepare yourself for the arbitration process, you will be setting up the date for you and both parties to meet for the arbitration proceedings. You will also get information about the issues in question by holding interviews with stakeholders of the case such as claimants, witnesses or agents. During the time of arbitration, you endeavor to get the two parties to discuss the issues with the aim of guiding them to reach an agreement that is beneficial to them both. When discussions take a turn for the worse, you are the cool head in the room reminding everyone to stay calm and steering back the talk to the issues at hand.
After the arbitration proceedings, you consider the case and the laws, policies and precedents that apply to it in order to come up with a determination. Before giving your decision, you also take into consideration the information you can glean from documents like claim applications and other records. Once you’ve reviewed everything, you come up with your decision. If one or both parties do not like it, they may be able to appeal your decision.
To succeed as an arbitrator, you will need critical-thinking skills as you must decide on the merits of the case, taking into consideration the arguments of each party. You will need to have excellent reading and writing skills since you will be digesting voluminous information and then penning decisions that each side will clearly understand. You also need to weigh the facts, take into consideration all the relevant rules and then make a decision, often under time pressure. You also need be able to listen to the disputing parties so that you will be able to review the information presented to you carefully and come up with a fair decision.
There are a number of reasons to become an arbitrator. The first is that it allows you to use your expertise and knowledge in a particular field to help solve disputes among parties. Arbitrators are typically lawyers or experienced business people who are experts in their area. Another reason is that it allows you to help disputing parties avoid a lengthy and costly legal process in court. It also provides decent pay and promises a good job outlook in the next few years. It is also a career that can be done part-time while one is holding a fulltime job.
Arbitrator Work Environment
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 29 percent of arbitrators were employed with the state and local governments while 17 percent were employed with the legal services industry and 10 percent were working with religious, grantmaking, civic, professional and related organizations. Others worked in healthcare and social assistance and the finance and insurance industries.
Arbitration meetings are typically held in private offices or meeting rooms. Some travel may be involved if parties prefer a neutral site to hold their negotiations. Presence of mind and the ability to make both parties remain calm are necessary as discussions can become heated.
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of arbitrators, mediators and conciliators is $76,840. This is lower compared to the $86,630 paid to administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers and the $105,380 received by judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates. In 2012, the agency reported that the arbitrators, mediators and conciliators working in the legal services industry were paid the highest at $109,470 while those working in the finance and insurance firms received $59,730. Those who have other occupations and work only as part-time arbitrators can stand to earn more.
Arbitrator Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the employment of arbitrators, mediators and conciliators in the next few years is set to grow 10 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. This is a rate that is as fast as the average for all job types. Thus, from the 8,400 of them employed in 2012, the number is set to grow to 9,300 in 2022.
The demand will come from the fact that arbitration is often preferred by companies and individuals because it is speedier and less costly. In addition, there are also many contracts that require arbitration or mediation as a method of solving complaints and other issues. Those with law degrees are bound to have better chances of getting jobs.
Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators typically have a bachelor’s degree in their field of expertise. Although this is often enough for entry-level posts, many other positions want applicants to hold advanced degrees in law, business administration or other fields. Some choose to undergo a certificate program in conflict resolution offered by some schools. There are also master’s degrees and doctoral degrees in dispute resolution or conflict management that aspiring arbitrators can also enroll in. Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators must also obtain a national license. The requirements will vary from state-to-state, with some states requiring that the licenses be appropriate to the field of expertise of the applicant. Thus, arbitrators can be licensed attorneys or certified public accountants.