Do I Need a Lawyer for Arbitration?

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Article By: Marc Newman

A Leading Commercial Litigation Attorney in Michigan

Do I Need a Lawyer for Arbitration?

Published on: July 29, 2020

 "Do I Need A Lawyer For Arbitration"
Arbitration involves different rules and procedures than typical litigation. Therefore, it is important to look for a lawyer who has specific experience with arbitration.

An arbitration attorney can advise you on things like selecting an arbitrator, gathering evidence, and presenting your case.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a formal method of alternative dispute resolution that has risen in popularity in recent years. It allows you to bring your dispute in front of a private arbitrator, rather than a judge, to decide your case.

The arbitration process is private, and the parties pay the arbitrator’s fees. You can use either a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators.

The parties have the opportunity to present evidence and question witnesses, just as they would in a courtroom. However, the process is less formal than a court proceeding, and many of the regular rules of evidence and procedure do not apply.

Arbitration can be either binding or non-binding. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final. You have to abide by the result just as if you went before a judge. But unlike a court ruling, an arbitration ruling is generally not appealable.

In non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is advisory. It is binding only if the parties choose to agree to it. While this may seem like an empty process, it can still be effective.

A non-binding decision gives the parties insight into how the facts of their case look to a neutral third party. Although the losing party might feel inclined to reject the arbitration order, it may also help them see the writing on the wall. Having learned that their case isn’t as strong as they hoped, a losing party may accept the arbitration decision to avoid incurring more court costs. At the very least, it may put the parties in a better position to negotiate a settlement after realigning their expectations.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me in Arbitration?

infographic covering do I need a lawyer for arbitration

Even though arbitration may seem like something you can handle yourself, a lawyer can play an important role in protecting your rights. Remember that the results of arbitration are usually unappealable, and with binding arbitration, the decision is final. With only one bite at the apple, an arbitration proceeding is not something you want to improvise.

An attorney can help you:

  • Select an arbitrator or arbitration panel,
  • Conduct legal research,
  • Investigate evidence,
  • Gather documents,
  • Interview and prepare witnesses,
  • Negotiate ground rules with the other party,
  • Present arguments to the arbitrator regarding discovery and admissibility of evidence;
  • Articulate complicated legal arguments, and
  • Question and cross-examine witnesses at the arbitration hearing.

 

Particularly if the other side has counsel, you don’t want to be left at a disadvantage. Hiring an attorney can help you level the playing field and see that your case is presented to the arbitrator in the best light possible.

What Does the Arbitration Process Look Like?

Although the arbitration process is less formal than litigation, it can still be complex. It’s really not something you want to tackle without an attorney.

Moreover, since the arbitration process is different from typical litigation, it is important to have an attorney with arbitration experience.

Here’s what you can expect from a typical arbitration process.

Initiate an Arbitration Action

The method of initiating an action will depend on the terms of your arbitration agreement. In some cases, you may agree to arbitration after a dispute arises. In other cases, you may be bound to pursue arbitration by the terms of a contract or other agreement.

The first thing you need to do is to give the imposing party a notice of arbitration. This notifies them that you intend to pursue arbitration.

If the terms of your arbitration agreement require you to use a particular arbitrator or arbitration organization, you also provide them with a copy of the notice and follow their procedures. If not, you will need to cooperate with the other party to select an arbitrator or an arbitration panel.

Determine the Rules That Will Govern the Arbitration

Next, you need to make sure you understand the rules that will govern your arbitration process. These can vary from case to case. Arbitration rules may pertain to things like:

  • How many arbitrators you will use;
  • How long you will take to do discovery;
  • Deadlines for providing certain notices or information;
  • What kind of discovery you will be permitted to do;
  • Whether certain types of evidence will be excluded;
  • How long you will have for the hearing; and
  • The extent to which records, proceedings, and awards will be kept confidential.

 

Again, if you have a pre-existing contract pertaining to arbitration, it may include details about the rules that will govern your arbitration. Or if you agree to use a particular arbitration organization, they may have certain rules they follow. Otherwise, you will need to reach an agreement with the other party about what rules you will follow.

If you can’t agree, state laws, such as the Michigan Uniform Arbitration Act may fill in the blanks.

Conduct Discovery

Generally, you will have a certain amount of time to collect evidence to support your case. This process is analogous to the discovery period in a typical court case.

Typically, your arbitration rules will give you some right to exchange documents with the other party. However, you will likely be more limited than you would be with a formal discovery process.

Arbitration proceedings are expected to be less costly than litigation. This means that many expensive discovery methods are scaled back in arbitration. For example, rather than send formal discovery requests, parties will typically agree on what information they need to exchange at the outset and set deadlines for providing that information.

Depositions are also unusual in arbitration unless they are particularly necessary. Arbitrators often have the authority to permit or limit discovery based on what they believe is needed.

Arbitration Hearing

The final step is to attend the arbitration hearing. At the hearing, parties will have the opportunity to present evidence and examine witnesses, just like they would in a typical court hearing.

However, many of the rules of evidence and procedure that govern formal court hearings do not apply in arbitration. As with discovery, the type of evidence that will be allowed can be governed by the parties’ agreement, the arbitration organization’s rules, or the individual arbitrator.

After each party has had the opportunity to present their case, the arbitrator will rule on the issues. They will also determine the appropriate amount of any arbitration award. Further, they can make rulings directing appropriate parties to pay attorney fees and other costs.

The Miller Law Firm Has Experienced Arbitration Lawyers

If you need help with an arbitration, contact the Miller Law Firm today. We have been representing clients in Michigan and around the country for nearly 25 years. We have extensive experience in arbitration and have obtained multi-million dollar arbitration awards on behalf of clients. Call or contact us today to learn how we can help with your arbitration.

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