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Involved in a business dispute?  Need an experienced California lawyer at a competitive rate?  Attorney Nathan Wirtschafter represents business owners, entrepreneurs, and companies in business litigation and arbitration.

Many contracts contain arbitration clauses.  A sample arbitration clause might read something like this: “In the event of a dispute arising under this agreement, the parties agree to submit their dispute to final and binding arbitration before the American Arbitration Association, in Los Angeles, California.” 

Arbitration is the submission of a dispute to an impartial third party for resolution instead of resolving the case in court.  Arbitration is an alternative to traditional litigation, and the decision issued by the arbitrator is often referred to as an award.

There are several professional alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) providers which manage arbitration.  Among them are: American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (“JAMS”) and ADR Services, Inc. 

An individual or company can demand arbitration by filing a form, usually one page long, called a demand for arbitration, and paying the filing fee with a recognized ADR provider.  The demand specifies the identity of the parties, the nature of the dispute, the dollar amount claimed, and other relief requested.  Sometimes a form will request to know whether mediation would be helpful.  Arbitration has become a form of e-commerce: the demand can be completed on-line.

An arbitrator must be impartial, and is generally required to disclose any possible conflicts of interest.  Often an arbitrator is a retired judge, but sometimes the arbitrator is a practicing attorney, or even a lay person who has specialized experience in a particular field.

Once a demand for arbitration is filed, it must be served on the other side.  The side demanding arbitration is the claimant, the other party is called the respondent.  The respondent must also pay a fee to participate in the arbitration and can file an answer.  Also, the respondent has the opportunity to file a counter-claim.

After both sides have made initial filings, the case is “at-issue,” and the parties begin the process of selecting an arbitrator.  Often the ADR provider will send a list of as many as ten possible arbitrators.  Each side will rank those it chooses and cross out those it rejects.  The lists are returned confidentially to the ADR provider, which reviews the lists to get the best possible match.  Once an arbitrator is chosen, the arbitrator must check for conflicts of interest before being finally selected.

Once an arbitrator is selected, the arbitrator sets an initial status conference or case management review.  At this conference, which is usually conducted by telephone, the arbitrator will review the demand and counter-claim, review discovery issues, set days for motions and set a final hearing date.

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