What should I look for in an arbitrator?

Good arbitrators have experience in running an arbitration hearing, excellent analytic and reasoning skills, good writing skills, and an ability to quickly learn complex matters. The subject matter of your dispute may also mean that you want to look for specific expertise in the arbitrator you select. For instance, cases involving pension trust funds may be better handled by an arbitrator with knowledge of pensions law, such as the Employer Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), while complex technical disputes involving material chemistry may best be handled by a person familiar with the field.

Understanding the Role of an Arbitrator

It is imperative that you take your time, do your research and find the right arbitrator to handle your dispute. This is key because whatever an arbitrator decides is going to bind you under the law and you generally aren't going to be able to change it. While it may sometimes be possible to make an appeal to the court after arbitration, the appellate court is going to be very deferential to any decision and findings made by the arbitrator and will generally only overturn or change what the arbitrator has done if there were major procedural irregularities or bias in the arbitration itself. 

The fact that arbitration is binding makes it distinct from other forms of alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, and you will want to have someone who can be fair, balanced, knowledgeable and impartial in deciding your case. To ensure that your arbitrator has the features you are looking for, ask for past references, read any opinions you can find that were written by the arbitrator, and contact both the Better Business Bureau and organizations designed for arbitrators like the American Arbitration Association. Your lawyer may also have some suggestions for you regarding who to hire as an arbitrator or what specific features and qualifications you should be seeking.