Last edited 14 Dec 2017

How to become an arbitrator

Arbitration is a private, contractual form of dispute resolution. It provides for the determination of disputes by a third party arbitrator or arbitration panel, selected by the parties to the dispute. Some contracts may identify a specific individual who will appoint an arbitrator, such as the president of the RIBA or the CIOB in the event that the parties cannot agree.

Arbitration proceeds along similar lines to litigation, with the submission of the issue to a single decision maker (the arbitrator) or an arbitration panel. Their decision is final and legally binding. Disputes are resolved based on material facts, documents and relevant principles of law.

It is possible for anyone to become an arbitrator. It is common for arbitrators to come from the legal profession, but they may also come from a technical profession related to the subject in dispute, such as an architect. Parties in dispute will often try and appoint an arbitrator who has particular experience relevant to their case, who will be able to understand the complexities of the issues involved.

Some of the skills and knowledge required to be an arbitrator include:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the laws of contract, tort and evidence.
  • Knowledge of and ability to use the applicable procedural law.
  • Ability to evaluate arguments in a fair and neutral way.
  • Ability to draw conclusions effectively.

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIARB) trains and accredits practitioners, and offers fast-track assessment programmes for legal professionals. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also offers a Diploma in Arbitration, which is a nationally-recognised qualification.

Once qualified, arbitrators must gain practical experience. This can be done by ‘shadowing’ experienced arbitrators and assisting under their supervision, as well as pro bono arbitrating of smaller disputes.

After some practical experience has been gained, arbitrators can advertise for paid appointments on larger arbitrations.

Where a third party has been selected to appoint an arbitrator, they may be chosen from an existing list, such as the RIBA list chosen on the recommendation of the President's Arbitration Committee. This includes "... individuals considered by the committee as capable of discharging the duties of an arbitrator, being sufficiently knowledgeable in the law and possessing expertise appropriate to the subject matter of the disputes for which the president is likely to be asked to make an appointment. The list includes individuals who are professionally qualified as architects, engineers or quantity surveyors. Of these some are additionally qualified as lawyers."

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