The Role of the Arbitrator: Qualifications & Responsibilities

Ever wondered about who exactly is “in charge” of a legally binding arbitration process? Let’s take a peek into the world of arbitrators.

Think of them as the folks who know their legal stuff, who can sort out problems like an executive, and are committed to fair play all the way. Join me as we dive into what it generally takes to be an arbitrator and what they do!

What Arbitrators Do

Arbitrators serve a crucial role in resolving disputes outside of court. They offer solutions, expertise and confidentiality, making arbitration an efficient alternative to lengthy and potentially reputation-damaging litigation.

With their specialized knowledge and ability to customize proceedings, arbitrators provide parties with fair and enforceable resolutions tailored to their specific needs.

Being an arbitrator is a multifaceted role that demands a keen understanding of legal intricacies, unwavering impartiality and exceptional communication skills. Think of them as akin to a judge, but with a heightened focus on fostering consensus and finding equitable solutions.

Qualifications and Responsibilities

Here is a quick rundown regarding the role and requirements of arbitrators:


  • Know the Law: Arbitrators must possess a comprehensive grasp of relevant statutes and regulations in order to effectively navigate disputes and render informed decisions. Most arbitrators are lawyers, and many are former judges.  But it is not a requirement to be a lawyer to be an arbitrator.
  • Have relevant experience: Effective arbitrators must be more than just smart and honorable people, they must bring something to the game as well.  They must have some sort of experience that qualifies them for a specific matter.  Sometimes it is enough that they were involved on other similar matters as either a lawyer, party or arbitrator.  However, usually the parties want someone with knowledge in a specific area.  For example, if it is a complicated construction dispute, the arbitrator should have experience in construction legal disputes – maybe even engineering.  Same for employment or labor disputes.  You don’t want a lawyer who may be well-versed in the intricacies of medical malpractice arbitrating your geotechnical engineering dispute.  Arbitration is designed to have a qualified decision maker as an alternative to laypersons on a jury.
  • Stay Neutral: Like Switzerland, arbitrators must remain impartial throughout proceedings, ensuring fairness and equity for all parties involved.
  • People Skills: Beyond legal and subject matter expertise, arbitrators must excel in interpersonal communication – fostering dialogue and guiding discussions to facilitate a fair resolution. It is important that each party believes the process was neutral and they were treated fairly.  That way when one party losses, they don’t feel like the process was rigged against them.


  • Disclosure: Arbitrators must disclose all past or current relationships or experiences which could call their neutrality into question.  This not only includes relationships with the parties and their attorneys, but also potential witnesses in the case.  The arbitrators need to make these disclosures to the parties before they are deemed “appointed,” and the parties must have the option to call their impartiality into question.
  • Running Pre-Hearing Meetings: Arbitrators take charge of proceedings, moderate discussions, and ensure all voices are heard, while maintaining order and decorum.
  • Decision-Making: After meticulously considering evidence and arguments, arbitrators are tasked with delivering decisions grounded in factual evidence and legal principles.
  • Ensuring Fair Play: Perhaps the most crucial responsibility is that arbitrators uphold the fundamental principle of fairness, ensuring every participant is afforded an equal opportunity to present their case and receive due consideration.

In essence, arbitrators serve as impartial decision-makers, navigating the complexities of dispute resolution with integrity and diligence. From deciphering legal statutes to fostering constructive dialogue, their role is pivotal in ensuring justice is served fairly and equitably.

So, the next time you find yourself embroiled in a business dispute or legal issue, remember — an arbitrator isn’t just a third-party decision-maker to your argument, but a well-qualified guardian of fairness and equity in the pursuit of resolution.

Should you require assistance or legal guidance throughout the process, feel free to reach out. I’m here to provide support and help navigate the way forward!

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