United States: Reflections Of An Arbitrator: Why Rule 4:21A Matters

Last Updated: August 10 2015
Article by Elizabeth J. Hampton

So your case is scheduled for court ordered arbitration. No shocker. You have been through this before. But before you hastily put together a form arbitration memo, consider how a well – executed arbitration can assist your case. It matters.

As a certified arbitrator, I have presided over all sorts of proceedings: fights with private institutions, contract disputes, property damage, just to name a few. The arbitration process is important because the arbitrator's decision is final unless within 30 days a party files a notice of rejection of the award and makes a demand for a trial de novo.

Aside from the potential finality of an arbitration award, the process itself can be very important for your client and your cause. Depending on the specific details of your case, arbitration can assist you in the following ways:

  1. Arbitration presents your client with an opportunity to be heard for the first time by an impartial decision maker. Clients can practice their presentation skills in providing affirmative testimony as opposed to answering questions hurled by an adversary at a deposition. For many clients, the arbitration proceeding is cathartic and important because they get to tell their side of the story to someone who is impartial and interested in coming to a rationally based and legally supportable conclusion.
  2. Arbitration allows you to observe the strengths and weaknesses of your case in a comprehensive fashion. You can weigh the credibility of your adversary's witness and focus your efforts accordingly in the case. The arbitration conference room serves as mini trial and is an edited version of where your case is now and where it needs to go.
  3. Arbitration can lead to a reasonable settlement. Perhaps your client previously rejected a settlement offer that you think she should have taken. Arbitration may serve as a reality check, allowing your client to reconsider what he or she thought was slam dunk million dollar case. By the same token, you may have an adversary who has taken an unreasonable position in the litigation. If you use the arbitration process to show him that your client makes a compelling witness, his position may respond to that wake up call.
  4. It is important for your client to recognize that you are prepared at all times and in every facet of their case. As their confidence in you increases, so does their willingness to trust your counsel and recommendations moving forward.

So, the next time you receive that court notice scheduling arbitration, seize the opportunity to put your best case forward. It is time well spent for your client.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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