What is an Arbitrator?

An arbitrator is a neutral third party who is appointed or selected to resolve disputes between two or more parties. They play a crucial role in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes, where the goal is to settle conflicts outside of traditional courtrooms. The primary responsibility of an arbitrator is to listen to both sides of the dispute, consider the evidence and arguments presented, and make a binding decision or award that resolves the conflict.

Unlike a judge in a court of law, an arbitrator does not have the authority to enforce their decision. However, their award is usually legally binding and can be enforced through the courts if necessary. Arbitrators are chosen for their expertise in a particular field or their knowledge of the applicable laws and regulations related to the dispute. They ensure a fair and impartial process by giving each party an opportunity to present their case, examining the evidence, and applying relevant laws or contractual agreements to reach a resolution.

What does an Arbitrator do?

An arbitrator encouraging and facilitating communication between two disputants.

Arbitration offers a private, efficient, and flexible way to settle disputes, and the arbitrator's role is essential in guiding parties towards a mutually acceptable outcome.

Duties and Responsibilities
Arbitrators have several important duties and responsibilities in the dispute resolution process. Here is an overview of their key obligations:

  • Impartiality and Fairness: Arbitrators must be neutral and unbiased, treating all parties involved in the dispute equally and without favoritism. They have a responsibility to ensure a fair and level playing field throughout the arbitration process.
  • Case Management: Arbitrators are responsible for managing the arbitration proceedings. This includes setting the timetable for the process, scheduling hearings, and overseeing the exchange of documents and evidence between the parties. They ensure that the process moves forward smoothly and efficiently.
  • Conducting Hearings: Arbitrators preside over hearings where both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses. They maintain order, ensure procedural fairness, and provide each party with an opportunity to present their case. The arbitrator may ask questions, examine witnesses, and request additional information or evidence.
  • Decision Making: After considering all the evidence and arguments presented, arbitrators must render a well-reasoned and binding decision, known as an arbitral award. Their decision should be based on applicable laws, contractual provisions, and any other relevant factors. The arbitrator's role is to resolve the dispute and provide a fair and just outcome for all parties.
  • Confidentiality: Arbitrators have a duty of confidentiality. They must keep all information related to the arbitration confidential, including the documents, discussions, and the final award, unless required by law or consented to by the parties. Confidentiality helps maintain trust and privacy in the arbitration process.
  • Professionalism and Ethics: Arbitrators are expected to adhere to high standards of professionalism and ethical conduct. They must act with integrity, honesty, and diligence throughout the arbitration process. Arbitrators should stay informed about relevant laws, rules, and practices in the field of arbitration to ensure they are well-prepared and competent in their role.
  • Enforcement and Implementation: While arbitrators do not have direct enforcement powers, their decisions are usually legally binding and enforceable. Parties can seek enforcement of the award through the courts if necessary. Arbitrators should ensure that their awards are clear, reasoned, and capable of implementation.

Types of Arbitrators
There are various types of arbitrators, each with specific roles and responsibilities based on their expertise and the nature of the dispute. Here are some common types of arbitrators:

  • Legal Arbitrators: These arbitrators are typically lawyers or legal professionals with expertise in the relevant field of law. They are well-versed in interpreting and applying laws, regulations, and contractual provisions to resolve disputes. Legal arbitrators ensure that the arbitration process aligns with the legal framework and may provide guidance on legal issues that arise during the proceedings.
  • Industry-Specific Arbitrators: These arbitrators have specialized knowledge and experience in a particular industry or sector. They possess in-depth understanding of industry practices, standards, and regulations. Industry-specific arbitrators are particularly valuable in complex disputes involving technical, commercial, or specialized matters, where their expertise can help in making informed decisions.
  • Technical Arbitrators: These arbitrators have expertise in technical fields, such as engineering, construction, or technology. They possess a deep understanding of technical concepts, standards, and practices related to the dispute at hand. Technical arbitrators can evaluate technical evidence, analyze complex data, and provide specialized insights into the technical aspects of the dispute.
  • Mediator-Arbitrators: Mediator-arbitrators are professionals who combine the roles of a mediator and an arbitrator. They first attempt to facilitate a settlement between the parties through mediation, encouraging dialogue and negotiation. If mediation fails, they transition into the role of an arbitrator to make a binding decision. Mediator-arbitrators offer a flexible approach, allowing parties to explore settlement options before resorting to arbitration.
  • Ad Hoc and Institutional Arbitrators: Ad hoc arbitrators are individuals appointed directly by the parties involved in the dispute, often based on their expertise and mutual agreement. Institutional arbitrators, on the other hand, are appointed through arbitration institutions or organizations that provide administrative support and rules for the arbitration process. Institutional arbitrators typically follow the established procedures and guidelines of the institution they are affiliated with.

Are you suited to be an arbitrator?

Arbitrators have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

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What is the workplace of an Arbitrator like?

Arbitrators often conduct hearings in dedicated hearing rooms. These rooms are designed to accommodate the parties, their legal representatives, witnesses, and any required equipment. Equipped with audiovisual systems, hearing rooms allow for the presentation of evidence, documents, and expert testimonies. The arbitrator presides over the proceedings from a central position, ensuring a fair and orderly process.

Many arbitrators are affiliated with arbitration institutions or organizations that provide administrative support and facilities for conducting arbitrations. These institutions may have their own offices or designated spaces where arbitrators can work. They offer resources such as case management services, access to research materials, and administrative assistance to help the arbitrator manage the arbitration efficiently.

With the advancements in technology, arbitrators are increasingly conducting proceedings remotely. This involves using video conferencing platforms and online collaboration tools to communicate with the parties, exchange documents, and conduct virtual hearings. Remote work offers flexibility and allows arbitrators to work from their own offices or homes, provided they have access to the necessary technology and a secure environment.

Additionally, depending on the nature of the dispute and the preferences of the parties, arbitrators may need to travel to different locations to conduct hearings or meet with the parties. This could involve visiting law firms, company offices, or other venues where the relevant documents, evidence, or witnesses are located. Travel is typically required when physical presence is necessary, such as examining a site or conducting witness interviews.

Arbitrators are also known as: