What Arbitrators Do
Because taking a case to court can be both costly and time-intensive, many jurisdictions now encourage or even require that parties engaged in a dispute go through arbitration or mediation beforehand. During this time, the parties involved are encouraged to resolve their issue amicably and reach an agreement. It’s up to the arbitrators to facilitate this. They listen to both sides, review relevant documents, help the parties define amicable terms, and settle their dispute out of court.
In some cases, arbitrators are given power to make decisions, while other times the arbitrator’s decisions can be appealed. Most arbitrators work independently, but they can also work as part of an organization, and each tends to specialize in a particular type of medication. For example, an arbitrator may work exclusively on consumer disputes, person-to-person issues, labor/ employment problems, or settle arguments between companies. Niches can become even more granular, with some arbitrators catering to specific types of disputes, such as only working with divorcing couples or within a specific sector, such as real estate.
Who would enjoy a career in Arbitration / Mediation?
People who can listen objectively, communicate effectively, and have a natural affinity for helping people see eye-to-eye do best. Because many arbitrators work independently, some business management and marketing skills may be beneficial as well. Knowledge of a specialty is also helpful, as is a background in law which is in most cases required. The career also tends to be good for those who enjoy law, but don’t want to put in the intense hours or become involved in law firm politics.
Who mightn't like the career?
People who need constant action, such as that which might be seen in litigation, may become bored during hearings, as the focus is not on proving who is right or wrong, but rather, achieving a fair resolution for all. This can also make it difficult for some who have strong viewpoints on specific issues, as the bias can impact the resolution of the case. The career is also not a good choice for someone who does not have specific knowledge in the area they hope to practice in, as first-hand business or legal experience is also often necessary.
The requirements to become an arbitrator vary greatly by jurisdiction. In some cases, only a bachelor’s degree and business experience is necessary, while in others, a law degree and certification is required. This not only varies within countries, but can be impacted by the industry the arbitrator serves as well.
For those entering into the field through law school, admittance into an accredited university upon completion of entry exams is the first step. Quality institutions have rigorous requirements and competition for positions is fierce.
A law degree is required in order to practice at any level above the rank of intern or summer associate in the US and Canada. In the UK and Australia, offerings such as the Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL) or the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), respectively, are available, which allow people with virtually any undergraduate degree to move into law. Each jurisdiction has further requirements, including a bar exam and licensure process.
Some areas allow individuals to train and work as community mediators in order to gain experience before applying for paid positions. Although some of the data is location-specific, The John Jay College of Criminal Justice provides "Tips for Becoming a Mediator in New York City," which has helpful tips for anyone hoping to get into the career. My Perfect Resume also offers “5 Arbitrator Template Interview Questions & Answers,” for those preparing for an interview.
Moving into Arbitration / Mediation from another career
Although it once was the case that most arbitrators came from careers as lawyers and judges, more business professionals are transitioning nowadays. Sometimes, making the switch can be as simple as taking a basic certification course and catering to the industry the individual knows best. For further reading, see “Should I Quit My Day Job? Two Paths to a Career in ADR.”
Role: There is no career ladder in arbitration. Once a person becomes an arbitrator, he remains at the same level for the duration of his career. Daily duties involve scheduling hearings, listening to arguments, mediating disputes, and researching or staying up-to-date on information that relates to cases.
Arbitrators may travel when helping companies settle disputes. The amount of travel will vary greatly depending on the individual’s specialty, with international arbitration specialists travelling extensively depending on where their matter is based.
Entry Level: According to data from PayScale, those beginning their careers have salaries of approximately USD $44,720 in the United States.
High-End: In the United States, arbitrator salaries tend to top out at roughly USD$103,395
Bonuses are rarely a part of an arbitrator’s salary, though some any earn roughly an extra few thousand dollars per year with them.
Why Arbitrators move on
Inability to secure new clients and difficulty earning a livable income from arbitration alone may cause people to leave the profession.