As we wrote in our previous blog, arbitration is becoming the preferred method many contracting parties use when settling disputes. It’s fair to say that the majority of contractors written between commercial parties and businesses dealing directly with the general public now likely include an arbitration clause.
Taking litigation through the court process can lead to significantly higher costs as well as a much longer process for the dispute to be settled. When a dispute arises and the parties can’t come to an agreement through informal negotiations or formal mediation, arbitration is likely the best option.
How can you make the arbitration as smooth and efficient as possible?
Even though the arbitration process is significantly less costly and time-consuming than court litigation, it can be a cumbersome process if you don’t take the proper steps to facilitate it.
Understand the arbitration clause
For those drafting an arbitration clause in their contract, it is critical to avoid simple boilerplate language, which can leave the process open to interpretation and make it more lengthy. A good arbitration clause will include:
- Case deadlines
- Discovery limits
- Criteria for arbitrator selection
- Confidentiality agreement
If you are on the signing end of the arbitration agreement, you will need to understand all of the parameters involved so you can comply with all the needed requirements.
Be selective with the discovery
While there may be a lot of supporting evidence to choose from, it is best to limit the discovery items to those that would be of value to the arbitrator. Bringing a bunch of unnecessary evidence can lengthen the process and also minimize the importance of other pieces of discovery due to the length of time it takes to process it all. Ask yourself if the evidence is relevant to the decision-making process and necessary to prove your side of the case.
Be open to a settlement
The ultimate goal of arbitration is to settle a dispute. This can be done by waiting for the arbitrator to render a decision, or through accepting or offering a settlement at some point during the arbitration process. As with all types of disputes, cases may not go the way that you expect them to, and if presented with a settlement option that is reasonable, you can minimize the risk of the case going against you and end up with a reasonable negotiation in the end.
Choose an attorney that is experienced in arbitration
Arbitration is still considered to be an adversarial process, and selecting an inexperienced attorney, may result in them treating the arbitration more like a litigation process. This can lead to higher expenses, more time, and the chance of a poorer outcome. An attorney with experience in arbitration will know how to interpret the arbitration clause, how to present the evidence and information in the proper way, and understand the rules and procedures, providing you with the best possible outcome.