Lewis Page Represents Clients in Business Arbitration and Other Disputes.
Arbitration and litigation resolve business disputes but differently.
- Source of power. Judges are empowered by federal and state constitutions. Arbitrators are empowered by statutes that require judges to enforce the parties’ contract to arbitrate, and give judges power to enforce an arbitrator’s award.
- Business arbitration contracts enforced. The courts are always open to disputing parties, unless they contracted for arbitration. Arbitration is only available if the parties contract to arbitrate, either in a business contract or in a submission agreement reached after a dispute arises. The contracting parties have the right to negotiate a one-time arbitration process fixing most details for how the arbitration will be conducted. However, more commonly the parties agree on an administrator such as the American Arbitration Association, and agree to its rules of procedure, perhaps with some tweaking to meet their particular needs. Since arbitrators have the power to render a final award only insofar as the parties’ contract gives that power to them, an arbitrator will follow the parties’ contract.
- Finality of arbitral awards. Perhaps, the most significant difference is the finality provided for an arbitrator’s award in contrast to the guaranteed appeals available in litigation. While there are many broad grounds to appeal a court ruling, statutes such as the Federal Arbitration Act only allow a few narrow grounds for an attack on an arbitrator’s award.
- Emphasis on arbitrator selection. Because of the usual finality of the arbitrator’s award usually without effective review by anyone else, selection of the arbitrator is of paramount concern to the parties. In contrast, in the court system random assignment of judges deprives the parties of power to the influence the selection. Disputing parties may agree to a specific arbitrator or, more commonly, the parties agree to use the administrator’s rules, which vary by type of case, but allow the parties to have input into the selection process. For example, the administrator could provide the parties a list of potential arbitrators, allow them to strike some, and then request each side to secretly rank the remainder, with the administrator appointing as arbitrator the one with the highest total ranking.
Like Most Arbitrators, Lewis Practices Law and Acts as Arbitrator
Lawyers may practice law, act as neutral arbitrators in a case, and act as lawyers for clients before other neutral arbitrators in other cases. Since an arbitrator must be neutral, he cannot act as advocate and arbitrator in the same or related case. Lewis is a member of the Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association. In that role he is appointed by the AAA to act as an arbitrator in commercial and consumer arbitrations. Lewis acts as advocate much more than he acts as arbitrator.
Is Business Arbitration or Litigation Better?
There is no general consensus about which method for resolving a dispute is better. Many would say it largely depends on the specific case and the client’s objectives. Even then, experienced lawyers may have sharply different opinions on the choice and opinions vary.
Business arbitration allows clients to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently with some risks not present in traditional litigation before a judge. Arbitration agreements in existing business contracts may compel arbitration of claims for breach of the contract and related claims, unless the other side waives. Parties to a dispute may agree to a new arbitration agreement or to amend an existing agreement.