Mediators and Arbitrators
Before discussing how to find an arbitrator or mediator, it's important to distinguish between these two forms of alternate dispute resolution. (They are considered "alternate" to litigation (court trials).)
Mediators are trained professionals who assist two parties in an informal, confidential process to help them come to a settlement of their dispute. Mediators do not impose settlements on the parties, and they do not have authority to bind the parties to a specific outcome.
Arbitrators resolve disputes by imposing a binding decision on both parties, after hearing each side's arguments and discussion. The arbitrator acts somewhat like a judge, hearing the evidence on both sides, but the rules of evidence are different from a court case. The goal of arbitration is to come to a decision on the case.
Whether you need a mediator or an arbitrator depends on the type of situation. If you think you and the other party can come to an agreement with some help, you might want to try a mediator. Because mediation is less formal, it is usually less costly than arbitration. Arbitration should be reserved for situations where you are required by a contract to arbitrate or where it seems the parties cannot find common ground after a lengthy negotiations.
Tips for Finding a Mediator or Arbitrator
- Focus on your state. Unless your business dispute involves several states, you should stay within your state to search for a mediator or arbitrator. These professionals are licensed in the state and they know state laws.
- Look for specialists. Mediators and arbitrators have many specialties and it makes sense to look for someone who specializes in the area where you need help. For example, if you are looking for a mediator to help with a dispute with a union, a family/divorce mediator won't be of much help.
- Look at certifications and credentials
There is no special training or certification required to be a mediator or arbitrator, but arbitrators and mediators are often retired judges or attorneys, or have some legal expertise in a specific area. Before you hire a mediator or arbitrator, check references carefully. If you want to find someone who has more qualifications; the American Arbitration Association qualifies arbitrators and mediators in various subject areas.
Places to look for mediators
- The American Arbitration Association has a webpage, AAA Mediation Services, which includes a database of over 900 mediators. You will need to register to access this database.
- JAMS is a private alternative dispute resolution provider with over 300 "neutrals." You can search their database by professional specialty.
- Check with your state bar association to see if they have information on mediators and arbitrators.
- You may be able to find a local mediation service that handles cases on a pro bono (free) basis, but for more complicated business mediation situations, you should probably look at a fee-based mediation service.
Places to search for arbitrators
- The American Arbitration Association can help you select an arbitrator, either by helping you file a case or by providing you with access to their database of arbitrators.
- Search on JAMS, a alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider. Many JAMS arbitrators are retired judges and attorneys.
- Ask your attorney for a referral to an arbitrator in your area.
Some areas of specialization in mediation and arbitration
To help you understand mediation and arbitration and to find a professional who can help with your specific case, here are some specialties within the fields of mediation and arbitration:
- Real estate
- Labor relations
- Intellectual property
- Civil rights
- Family law (including divorce)
- Professional liability
- Health care