• Mediator of civil cases since 1996,
    settlement rate of 85%-95%

selecting (or de-selecting) your arbitrator

Whether your are working with opposing counsel to select someone as an agreed arbitrator or you are striking names from a panel listing from an arbitration service, the selection of the arbitrator is a critical stage of the process—it could determine the outcome and will certainly influence the outcome.

Judges are public figures and their decisions are published. Arbitrators in most instances have no such public track record. It will take more work to research your potential arbitrator than a judge. Instead of considering one person, you will generally have a number of individuals from whom to select.

here are some steps you can take to help you make judgments:

  • Firsthand experience – The gold standard is to locate, through all your networking resources, someone who has had an arbitration with one of your panelists. This is the most useful information you are likely to find.
  • Consider the sponsoring organization – find out what the vetting process is for inclusion on the panel of the organization. Groups like AAA are invitation-only and conduct their own review of the people they put on their panels.
  • Internet research – google the members of the panel, both generally and with respect to your specific issues.
  • Survey colleagues – especially if you are on a list-serve, see what others have to say about the panelists
  • Look at their published work – look for viewpoints, thoroughness, even-handedness
  • Ask for references – this request must go to the arbitration service, as you shouldn’t have direct contact with the potential arbitrators. You may not get anything, but you cannot know unless you ask.
  • Check for membership in organizations that have a vetting process or are invitation-only groups.

Arbitrator Biographical Information. There is one trap in reviewing research on people to avoid—don’t rely on just one source’s comments or reaction. Focus on what the consensus points, good and bad, and discount the outliers unless they report something truly troubling.

Biographical information on the arbitration service panelists is generally written by the arbitrator. Arbitrators are fully aware that those who select them are starved for information. The arbitrator’s biographical information is provided in order to provide such information. Caveat emptor is applicable here. Any arbitrator with any sense will make a point of including information that will be comforting to both sides. Too much reliance on the biographical information provided by the potential arbitrator can thus be dangerous. Case in point: it is extremely rare for an attorney to truly have had a balanced experience in the labor & employment field: most people have represented either either the management or the employee/union side almost exclusively. I am one of the rare birds who did represent both employees and management — at the same time — for over 30 years.

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