Since we launched our Arbritration Certificate a few years ago, one of the most common questions we hear from potential students is “what are my career options as an arbitrator...what job opportunities are available?”
The truth is, there are almost limitless career paths in this field. Some people come to arbitration after years of experience in law. Others combine arbitration training with professional experience and academic credentials in a particular field, so they can adjudicate disputes that are specific to that trade.
There are career options in the public and private sector, and many ways to specialize within those domains.
In this post, we cover the most common job options for arbitrators, with commentary from David Merrigan—an experienced arbitrator and instructor for our course.
We also walk through the training and certifications you will need to launch a successful career in this field. Let’s get started.
If you choose to specialize in family arbitration, you will be helping people resolve separation issues like custody disputes, financial support, and the division of property. Family arbitrators cannot grant divorces or annulments—but their judgments on other matters are legally binding.
Family arbitration, sometimes called divorce arbitration, is growing in popularity as a more affordable, quicker alternative to court.
You don’t have to be a lawyer to practice in this area; however, you must understand and comply with the Arbitration Act, the Family Arbitration Regulations 134/07, the Family Law Act and the Family Law Rules.
Family arbitration is more regulated than other forms of arbitration. Failure to abide by the various provisions of these acts and regulations can render your judgments null and void.
And in Ontario, for example, arbitrators must complete training in family law before they are legally allowed to adjudicate family disputes.
Be sure to check requirements for family arbitrators in your province or territory.
Arbitration for Business and Consumer Disputes
Arbitration is often used to settle business and consumer disputes. This is a broad practice area that includes everything from contract disputes and partnership dissolutions, to shareholder and sale of business disputes.
Many business and employment contracts have mandatory arbitration clauses. It’s become very common for retailers, credit card companies, and employers to use mandatory arbitration in their contracts, as an alternative to litigation.
Arbitrators who specialize in this area often have a background in business law or business management.
Arbitration Jobs in Government
There are career opportunities for arbitrators at all levels of government. For example, cities and provinces have adjudicative boards, such as tribunals and committees, which settle a wide range of disputes using mediation and arbitration.
At the federal level in Canada, we have the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) which provides dispute resolution services to trade unions and employers. They deal with labour issues like unjust dismissals, grievances, and wage recovery.
There are several other adjudicative bodies at the provincial and federal levels, which employ arbitrators.
Our own arbitration instructor, David Merrigan, suggests new arbitrators seek out opportunities in government to gain experience with different kinds of disputes.
“A newly trained arbitrator might consider applying to 'governor in council' appointment opportunities for the federal or provincial government. This can be really helpful to get your foot in the door before setting up a private practice.”
See the whole interview with David, for more information on becoming an arbitrator: Arbitration Training & Careers: Your Top Questions Answered By Our Instructor
Finding Your Niche as a New Arbitrator
Theoretically, arbitration can be used to settle almost any kind of dispute, providing the parties agree to the process. Most arbitrators focus on an area of practice in which they have prior experience.
For example, if you have a background in labour relations, computer science, human resources, or construction, you can leverage your prior knowledge to arbitrate disputes in that field.
Most arbitrators choose a niche—an area in which they have professional experience and expertise. If you aren’t a lawyer, this is the best tactic for launching your career as an arbitrator.
Having special knowledge of an industry or occupation can give you a significant advantage when adjudicating disputes in that domain.
Merrigan recommends selecting an arbitration career that aligns with your strengths and experience.
“The first step is to take an inventory of your own interests, aptitudes, and education. Although many arbitrators have a legal background, there is room in this profession for those who do not, if they can bring value in other areas.
For example, several of the top labour arbitrators in Canada are not lawyers—but have extensive experience in the labour relations field. They may have been employment or union representatives during their professional careers, and have transferred those skills into successful careers as labour arbitrators.
Another good example is an organization in Canada called CAMVAP, which hires arbitrators to resolve disputes between consumers of automobiles and the dealerships who sell them. These arbitrators don't have to be lawyers. They use their general or advanced knowledge of automobiles to effectively settle disputes.”
Other Popular Arbitration Practice Areas
Some of the newer arbitration practice areas include IT, internet, domain name disputes, and disputes between apps, web sites, and end-users. People with expertise in these areas can leverage their skills to adjudicate disputes in these fields.
Other popular arbitration job options include specializations in:
☑️ Real estate
☑️ International trade
☑️ Mergers and acquisitions
Arbitration Training: Your first step
No matter which arbitration career you’re interested in, your first priority is earning the Qualified Arbitrator (Q. Arb) designation from the ADR Institute in Canada (ADRIC).
In order to qualify, you must complete an accredited training program, and meet other criteria set out by ADRIC.
The Q. Arb designation proves your competency as an arbitrator and is respected across Canada. At Kompass, we offer the country’s only ADRIC-approved online arbitration course.
This course is designed for busy professionals who do not have time to attend class on campus. Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to apply for the Q. Arb designation with the ADR Institute of Canada.
Click below to explore the 10-week arbitration training and learn more about instructor, David Merrigan. Find information on tuition, the online learning format, courses, and start-dates. Chat live with an advisor or request information by email. We’re here to help.