Arbitration is an alternative method of resolving a dispute. Instead of asking a jury or a judge to make a decision, parties go before one or more arbitrators who will listen to the arguments and settle the matter. People who are not familiar with arbitration may benefit from understanding how this process works.
The Harvard Law School points out that arbitration can take different forms, so participants should know what their particular arbitration will be like before going forward. Still, many arbitrations tend to follow the same general guidelines.
The arbitration setting
A civil trial occurs in a public courtroom. By contrast, an arbitration takes place in a private location such as a conference room. Once the parties attend, the arbitrator will lay down the ground rules for the arbitration.
The arguments and evidence
With all parties understanding the rules of the process, the parties or their attorneys can present opening statements. From there, the opposing sides will provide evidence to support their respective claims. As with a court trial, each party can present witnesses to testify. The arbitrator may also ask questions to clear up issues that come up during the proceedings.
Final steps and a decision
Once the parties have presented their evidence and witnesses, the arbitrator will permit the opposing sides to deliver their closing statements. Depending on the case, the parties may also summarize their arguments in a post-hearing brief. From here, the arbitrator will consider the arguments and issue a decision, possibly adding a written opinion. The decision may involve awarding damages to one party.
Differences from a court trial
As Entrepreneur explains, arbitration offers different attributes than a trial. Parties tend to have greater leeway to present evidence to an arbitrator than in a courtroom. Arbitration also occurs much more quickly than a trial. Since arbitration is a private proceeding, it does not become part of the public record. These characteristics may make arbitration preferable to civil litigation.