As puzzling as it may sound, sometimes the law does not want people to end up in a court of law. Given the costs of courtroom procedures and the time spent appearing in them, the legal profession puts importance on settling legal matters or grievances out of court. In fact, many cases never actually make it to court. This is where the topic of arbitration or mediation comes into focus. It is also a valid career path on its own.
Arbitration is the term used primarily in the commercial world and is best described as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Parties that have signed a contract and enter into a dispute will often stipulate arbitration as an option, referring the dispute to one or more persons (the arbitrators or arbiters) by whose decision (or award) they agree to be bound. This allows for settlement outside of court (allowing business to resume swiftly) and also softens the tone of the dispute, leaving the door open for a continued relationship in the future. Arbitration can be tricky where international business is concerned in that different territories have their own laws of arbitration and agreeing on which territory’s laws apply to a commercial agreement may itself be disputed. Arbitration can also be either voluntary or mandatory depending on the occasion. This is usually defined in the relevant clause of the contract being negotiated. Arbitration involves specific processes that must be adhered to by both parties. Arbitrators need not have a law degree. A certificate-level of study can suffice.
However, the arbitrators are usually experts in their field. Industry specialisation is usually a must-have. For example, maritime arbitrators have a strong background in shipping commerce as well as maritime law. However, in larger law firms there are lawyers who will specialise in this area, given the demand from large firms for such a service and what is at stake. Mediation is the term used in civil disputes and is where an expert or panel of experts negotiate a settlement. The mediator will most often be a nominated third or neutral party. Mediation is not mandatory either. It is seen as a way to help parties find a middle ground in a dispute. Mediation is also well-used in diplomacy, where one neutral country with links to two disputing ones may facilitate a channel for negotiations in its own territory.
Mediation is a certificate-level study area as it does not require extensive legal knowledge to negotiate settlements. If anything, mediators may be industry-specific in their knowledge. In general, what is common in arbitrators and mediators is a good, analytical mind that allows for objective reading of disputes and understanding of problems. Such a profession requires people who are adept at diplomacy and tact, while being firm in their focus and eventual conclusions. In particular, arbitrators must also possess good knowledge of the arbitration process and be adept at enforcing the rules of conduct and procedure.
DID YOU KNOW?There are still some old and obsolete laws in existence which have never been repealed. Most of them are ignored nowadays. Here are some examples:
- It is illegal in Italy to craft coffins out of anything other than wood or nutshells.
- It is illegal in France to name a pig Napoleon.
- All men over the age of 14 in England must have two hours of longbow practice each day.