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If you design a cartoon character for a book proposal and one year later, you notice that a company has stolen your artwork and claimed it their own, what do you do? Besides throwing a temper tantrum and feeling cheated and used, you must decide upon taking legal action towards the company. Who do you turn to? A lawyer? A mediator? An arbitrator? These days, many people are turning to arbitrators, who provide an excellent alternative to the court system.

Arbitrators, sometimes called umpires, referees or third-party neutrals, facilitate and decide disputes that bind both labor and management to specific terms and conditions of labor contracts. Arbitration is a private and confidential practice designed for resolving fast, practical and economical settlements out of court. Arbitration is less formal than litigation since the arbitrator acts as a third party, listening, assessing and making sound decisions on each specific case without forming judgments. They must remain neutral in order to make just decisions on a case.

Nowadays, people prefer not to take their cases to court for reasons of cost, privacy and time. They often choose an arbitrator for a less painful, more insightful settlement. Before the arbitration proceedings begin, both parties must agree on all stipulations in the case and to let the arbitrator make a final decision. Arbitrators hold proceedings in private, unlike the public forum of a court where personal information about your business and personal affairs becomes public knowledge. Unless both parties agree to make information public, it will remain confidential between the disputers and the arbitrator.

Arbitrators are like judges because they are in charge of settling cases (even though an arbitrator's courtroom can be anywhere) however, they often specialize in a specific area of arbitration such as family disputes, land ownership or property disputes. Arbitrators usually charge much less than a lawyer, therefore many individuals who cannot afford court proceedings must turn to an arbitrator.

Arbitrators are highly trained in personal skills and they offer a higher chance of maintaining goodwill between the parties and finding a solution that will make both parties satisfied. Acting on principles of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), arbitrators are constantly looking to create win-win situations, finding compromise for both parties. An arbitrator's decision in each case is legally binding, therefore both sides of the dispute must act upon what the arbitrator decides. Arbitrators make their decisions based on facts, evidence and the law.

Arbitrators often work part time as arbitrators and part time in different professions and contract their services when needed.
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Pacific Oaks College
Pacific Oaks College has specialized in adult education for over 60 years. Immerse yourself in a vibrant, supportive community of students and faculty from wide-ranging backgrounds.
Programs Offered:
  • M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy, Trauma Studies
  • M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy, Latina/Latino Family Studies
  • M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy, African American Family Studies
  • And more...



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Arbitrators must be neutral, patient, unprejudiced individuals with excellent communication skills, including listening and writing. Writing is important since they draw up reports based on clear, concise and logical decisions. Arbitrators must possess the ability to establish relationships with all different kinds of people, inspire trust in others and be culturally sensitive to their backgrounds.

Arbitrators are intellectuals who enjoy analyzing complex problems and facts and identifying the important issues involved in each case. From this, they come up with awards and develop innovative approaches to conflict resolution. They must be organized and quick-thinking and retain a sense of humor in order to relieve the sometimes stressful pressures of emotionally charged clients and hostile situations.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conduct initial meeting with disputing parties to outline arbitration process, which includes settling matters such as location, fees, witnesses and time
  • Control hearings allowing each side to present their arguments and evidence, question witnesses and cross-examine other witnesses
  • Consider both sides of the argument, assessing their validity and the evidence presented
  • Come up with a decision awarding one of the two parties and state the reasons behind the decision
  • Reduce the hostility between the parties
  • Identify what is important and what is expendable in each case
  • A typical day will revolve around the case an arbitrator is working on. Therefore, case proceedings will take up the majority of the arbitrator's time along with going over the evidence in order to make a judicial decision. Arbitrators may conduct hearings in a neutral location such as a boardroom, hotel conference room or anywhere else all parties agree on. Since arbitrators are independent contractors, many work in other professions, such as education or law because there is no guarantee for back to back cases. Arbitrators travel often, sometimes to other cities in order to proceed with their arbitration. Also, they sometimes work strange, long hours as disputes can run late into the night and arbitrators may sometimes need to do extensive research before writing the award.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Arbitrators are private practitioners who get contracted to arbitrate cases. Usually, arbitrators work in other occupations and work contractually on assignments. They often work out of their homes or at mutually acceptable locations.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Arbitrators are already leaders in the field of alternative dispute resolution. They usually work in other occupations like law and university teaching and occasionally get contracted to work as an arbitrator on a case. Nevertheless, arbitrators, who are also lawyers can become judges or justices of the peace. Arbitrators may also become private trainers. Sometimes called contract trainers or facilitators, private trainers conduct workshops, seminars, retreats, conference sessions and/or individual instruction sessions for adults in areas such as conflict management. They may also develop and design training programs, curriculums and materials.

  Educational Paths  
Although there are no specified minimum requirements for arbitrators, many have some sort of professional background. All have a university degree and some form of graduate degree, either in law, psychology, human resources, social work or a related field. Arbitrators must possess an appreciation of the principles of natural justice, a working knowledge of contracts and evidence legislation and knowledge of the principles of alternative dispute resolution.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Pacific Oaks College has specialized in adult education for over 60 years. Immerse yourself in a vibrant, supportive community of students and faculty from wide-ranging backgrounds.
Programs Offered:
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