What Makes a Successful Arbitrator? The Essential Hard & Soft Skills

Posted by Kompass Professional Development on Oct 11, 2018 10:10:20 AM
Kompass Professional Development

Updated December 2022

The stakes are high in arbitration. Arbitrators make binding judgments that are rarely appealed and difficult to overturn.

So what makes this form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) so popular?

People turn to arbitration to avoid the public exposure, cost, and time involved in litigation. The process can be used to resolve a wide range of issues, from personal injury cases to contract disputes to conflicts between countries.

Plus, arbitration is quite flexible. Unlike the court system, participants can choose who will arbitrate their dispute, where hearings will be held, and how the process will unfold.

So, when there's a dispute to be settled and so much at stake, what do parties in conflict look for when choosing an arbitrator?

And if you're considering arbitrating training to launch a career in this field, what competencies should your courses focus on?

Start with the fundamentals. These are the most widely recognized hard and soft skills for successful arbitrators.


Subject Area & Legal Expertise

It should go without saying that professional competency is a key prerequisite for every arbitrator.

To work in this field, you must develop a firm grasp of Canadian arbitration law, administrative law, tort law, contract law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the rules of evidence, etc.

It's also important to understand ethical compliance and obligations for arbitrators.

Quality arbitration training will include a thorough review of the Code of Professional Conduct from the Canadian Bar Association and the Code of Ethics from ADR Canada.

And finally, successful arbitrators are experts in the matters over which they preside. They quickly grasp the issues at hand and apply their knowledge in that area/industry to swiftly and fairly resolve the dispute.


Complete Understanding of Arbitration Procedure

In order to be effective, arbitrators must thoroughly understand the structure and formal process of an arbitration hearing.

They must be able to conduct the arbitration in the most efficient way possible to avoid needlessly prolonging the process and creating additional expense (and stress) for the parties involved.

At the same time, fairness and due process must be considered. Successful arbitrators can balance the interests of expediency with respect for thoroughness, collaboration, and impartiality.

Effective arbitration training will always include mock trials and role play to help students understand and navigate the challenges of a real dispute.

Working through actual cases helps new arbitrators gain a deeper understanding of procedure—and the opportunity to develop and apply every other skill on this list.


Critical Reasoning, Objectivity & Sound JUDGEMENT

Critical reasoning, objectivity, and sound judgment are the hallmarks of effective arbitration. Arbitrators must be able to gather and analyze relevant information, keep their biases in check, and faithfully follow procedure to determine a fair and just reward.

This requires a degree of introspection, self-awareness, rigour, and firm belief in arbitration as a just means for settling disputes. These are most certainly qualities clients will look for when selecting an arbitrator—and characteristics that will help cement your positive reputation in the ADR field.


Strong Communication Skills

One simply cannot function as an arbitrator without very strong communication skills. This includes the ability to listen closely, and articulate ideas and directives succinctly.

Successful arbitrators have command over language. They are diplomatic, professional, and respectful.

They also have excellent writing skills, to ensure the award (final judgment) is expressed clearly and without any ambiguities.

Your communication skill as an arbitrator will determine the tone of the proceedings, the effectiveness of witness questioning and cross-examination, and your capacity to garner respect as a knowledgeable and fair professional.


Learn more about Arbitration training and certification

Are you seriously considering becoming an arbitrator? Looking for a reliable online arbitration course that promotes the skills outlined here?

Consider the Arbitration and Alternative Dispute certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development. This course is accredited by the ADR Institute of Canada, and meets educational requirements for the Qualified Arbitrator designation.

Click below to explore the course or chat live with an admissions advisor.

Explore Accredited Arbitration Training at Kompass


Topics: arbitration

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