12042 SE Sunnyside Rd

Suite 552

Clackamas, OR 97015




There are a lot of advertisements these days in the Bar publications about full-time neutrals. Many of these folks are lawyers disenchanted with litigation, billable hour requirements, client disloyalty, large firm politics, etc. Many are former judges who have presided over trials and settlement conferences and assume their knowledge and skills are directly transferable to presiding over arbitrations. The options are numerous. So, how does one decide on a particular arbitrator?

Experience: The experience of your arbitrator does count! By this I mean not only that your arbitrator has experience as an arbitrator and knows the procedural and evidentiary rules that apply to arbitrations, but also that that person has experience and knowledge in the type of case being presented. Years ago, I was handling a personal injury case that went to arbitration. The arbitrator had been picked off a list of arbitrators issued by the Court. Supposedly that person knew tort law. However, when the arbitrator asked for an explanation of what was meant by “comparative negligence” I knew I was in trouble. Remember that the arbitration may be a substitute for your client’s “day in court.” The client needs to feel confident that the arbitrator understands the law pertaining to their case.

Demeanor: Over the years I have represented many people who have told me in no uncertain terms that they will not go to Court; others have undoubtedly felt that way but have not admitted it openly; still others will go to Court if all other options fail. Regardless of your client’s feelings about litigation, two things are certain – they want to be treated with respect and feel that the process was fair. It is therefore important to pick an arbitrator whom you believe will address those needs appropriately. Be sure to pick an arbitrator who will (1) listen carefully; (2) be respectful; (3) remain objective; and (4) have the presence and confidence to assure your client the justice system is working for them.

Results: The purpose of “alternative dispute resolution” is to get a case resolved to avoid the cost (financial and emotional) of going to Court. Chances are your client is not particularly eager to go to Court and would like to get their case resolved. Your client probably has no interest in incurring the cost of both arbitration and trial. You therefore want to select an arbitrator who can get the job done. Check with your colleagues about an arbitrator’s reputation; don’t, however, base your decision to use (or not use) a particular arbitrator because of one person’s reaction to one result with that arbitrator. Keep in mind that the result may have been the right result based on the facts of the case, including the credibility of the parties involved.