Ever get the feeling that arbitration is a lot like litigation? It seems as though it takes much longer than intended and costs too much. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you can take measures into your own hands to streamline the arbitration process. Use these tips below from Houston court reporters for a smoother, faster, and more efficient arbitration.
- Start by reviewing and revising arbitration clauses before agreeing to a contract. You may want to include language that specifies expedited arbitration rules for disputes that fall under a specific threshold. Review the clause to ensure that it does not give too much power to the arbitrator. While you’re at it, ask yourself if the clause is too ambiguous or too narrow. Other considerations include:
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
- Reasonable page limits to discourage lengthy and unnecessary motions
- Specifying how an arbitrator will be selected if the two parties cannot agree within 30 days of notice served
- Specifying the number of arbitrators (one versus three, for example)
- Limit depositions and e-discovery to streamline discovery. Again, this will usually be spelled out in the arbitration provision. Because depositions and e-discovery are time-consuming and costly, it often makes sense to impose limits. For example, you may specify no more than three depositions per party or none at all. With e-discovery, you could specify no e-discovery whatsoever or e-discovery with a narrow focus or reasonable time limits.
- Set additional time limits. Once the panel is seated, what happens? Specify the number of days between seating the panel and starting the hearing. What happens after the hearing? Once again, specify the number of days that the panel has to make its award. By specifying time limits, you can avoid unnecessary delays. Since everyone knows the limits, they’ll be more likely to work within them compared to an open-ended schedule.
- Be involved in choosing the arbitrator. Does the arbitrator have a history of timely resolutions and a proactive approach to managing efficient arbitrations? Do your research and add timely case management to your list of priorities.
- Be aware of your own contributions. As easy as it is to cast blame on others for causing unnecessary delays, beware of how your actions may also contribute to inefficiency. You may feel rushed with a deadline looming and understandably want more time to prepare. Before you request a rescheduling, ask yourself if rescheduling is essential. Will a few more weeks give you adequate time to make a significant difference or is it simply kicking the can down the road? At the same time, you and the other party may both want additional time and agree to it. Again, are you postponing the hearing for valid reasons? The arbitrator may be less inclined to keep the hearing on an aggressive schedule if both parties request more time.
Streamlining an arbitration begins long before you sign a contract. The arbitration clause spells out many vital provisions that can make your arbitration more efficient. Should arbitration become necessary, you will already have a reasonable plan in place that addresses everything from attorneys’ costs and discovery limits to time limits and the number of arbitrators presiding over the hearing. You can take a proactive role both in choosing an arbitrator with a reputation for conducting swift and effective hearings and efficient case management skills as well as in managing your own requests for postponements.
Did we miss any tips for a smoother and more efficient arbitration? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you. Share your best arbitration tips in the comments section below.