What Does An Arbitrator Do?
An arbitrator is a person who works to help settle a disagreement, using a process called arbitration. The arbitrator is a neutral third party who is there to solve a problem by getting everyone involved to agree on a fair solution, or independently deciding on a solution. Arbitrators work to solve problems before the situation needs to be handled formally in court.
Arbitrators can work independently to solve a disagreement, or they can work as a team. A team of arbitrators is called a tribunal. Usually a tribunal is made up of an odd number of arbitrators to try to avoid an equally split decision or a tie.
Arbitrators are usually retired judges, lawyers, or business professionals from specialized fields. They can be selected in several ways:
- Directly by the parties involved in the argument, either they can agree on one, or they can both choose their own
- By existing arbitrators – when both parties select their own arbitrator, the two selected arbitrators can work together to select an additional arbitrator or more
- By an unrelated third party, either the court or an individual can make a reasonable choice
In order for an arbitration to work, the arguing parties have to agree to give the arbitrator the power to make a decision. An arbitrator meets with the people involved in the disagreement. The meetings take place in a neutral, professional location, usually a courthouse or the meeting room at a law firm.
Before the arbitration hearing takes place, the arbitrator meets with both parties to explain the process, including how it works and how much it will cost. They also decide on a time frame for the hearing itself. The arbitrator then schedules the arbitration hearing at a time that works for both parties.
The arbitrator tries to get both parties to come together and talk directly to each other at the same time, in the same room. In this situation, the arbitrator acts as a moderator and tries to help the parties talk and understand each other’s concerns and needs. The arbitrator hopes to help the parties come to an agreement that works for everyone.
If the parties are not able to meet peacefully in the same room, or if either party requests privacy, the arbitrator meets with both sides separately, usually in rooms that are next to each other. The arbitrator goes back and forth attempting to help the parties talk about their concerns.
Whether in the same room or not, the arbitrator carefully listens to both sides of the story. They ask a lot of questions to make sure the situation is fully explained and understood.
The arbitrator must analyze the evidence that is presented, including:
- Witness statements
- Physical evidence
In addition, they are in charge of what is called the discovery process, meaning they decide what facts are important and need to be considered in order to make an acceptable final decision.
If, after meeting with the arbitrator and talking to each other, the parties can’t agree on a solution, the arbitrator then makes a decision for them.
Whether the parties agree on their own solution, or the arbitrator decides, the arbitrator then creates a formal document that outlines the solution and what is expected from both parties. This paperwork must be signed by the arbitrator and both parties.
An arbitrator must be knowledgeable about current laws and policies in order to make a fair and reasonable decision. They must follow federal laws, as well as any specific guidelines outlined by the state where they work. Many states follow the Uniform Arbitration Act, while others have developed their own laws and guidelines for arbitration.
These laws explain how the arbitration works, and make sure that the arbitrator’s final decision is respected and followed just like a decision made by a judge in court. In some situations, the parties are allowed to appeal if they don’t like the arbitrator’s decision.
Some arbitrators work only on general cases, others focus their efforts and specialize in very complex areas. If they work in a specific area, they must have professional knowledge and experience in that certain profession or line of work.
Different types of arbitration can be used depending on the situation, including:
- Commercial – an argument between two businesses
- Consumer – an argument between a customer and a business
- Labor – an argument between an employee and an employer
- Private – an argument between two private parties
A successful arbitrator must be a very good listener. They must be able to stay calm under pressure, even when they are around people who are upset. Arbitrators must pay attention to details and be willing to follow legal guidelines exactly. People who are able to think creatively to solve problems make great arbitrators.