What is Arbitration? How it works: Everything Explained!

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method where parties agree to hear their case by an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. The process can be binding or non-binding, with binding arbitration resulting in an enforceable decision. Key aspects of arbitration include privacy, flexibility, expertise, speed, and enforceability. However, it has been criticized for limiting access to justice and using mandatory arbitration clauses.

Read on to learn about arbitration in depth and how it works.

History of Arbitration

Arbitration has a long history as a preferred method of dispute resolution. It can be traced back to primitive societies and was used to resolve commercial disputes in various historical contexts. In medieval England, merchant disputes were often resolved through arbitral tribunals. Over time, arbitration became more prevalent and played a significant role in resolving international tensions.

The origins of arbitration are not well documented, but it has developed as an alternative to or in the absence of federal courts. One of the earliest known examples of arbitration at the global level is the Jay Treaty of 1794 between the United States and Great Britain. Throughout its history, arbitration has evolved as a procedure where parties choose a decision-maker and grant them the exclusive power to render a decision based on a mutually agreed-upon standard of fairness and institutional rules.

Forms of Arbitration

Binding vs. Non-binding arbitration

Binding arbitration: Parties agree to be bound by the arbitrator's final decision, which is legally binding and final. It is faster and more efficient than court litigation and maintains confidentiality. It can help preserve business relationships.

Non-binding arbitration: The decision is not legally binding and requires acceptance by the parties. It allows for ongoing negotiations and alternative dispute resolution methods and promotes a less adversarial environment. It is faster and more efficient than court litigation.

Considerations: Choose binding for swift resolution and non-binding for further negotiations. Non-binding preserves relationships. Both are faster and more efficient than court litigation.

The choice between binding and non-binding arbitration depends on the specific needs and goals of the parties involved in the dispute.

Ad Hoc vs. Institutional Arbitration

Ad Hoc Arbitration: Parties manage all aspects without an institution. It is flexible, faster, and cost-effective. Fee negotiations are direct, but delays may occur. Suitable for smaller claims and less affluent parties.

Institutional Arbitration: This form of arbitration is administered by an institution with specific rules. Parties can adopt existing or customized rules. Administrative support is provided, ensuring efficiency and fewer delays. Suitable for parties with limited arbitration experience.

Ad hoc offers flexibility and cost advantages, while institutional provides administrative support and efficiency. The choice depends on the parties' needs and goals.

Domestic vs. International arbitration

Domestic arbitration concerns national issues within a single jurisdiction, while international arbitration involves parties from different countries. Domestic arbitration follows the laws of the country and involves arbitrators from that jurisdiction. International laws and conventions, such as the New York Convention, govern international arbitration. It may require legal counsel due to unfamiliarity with the local legal system. The choice between the two depends on the nature of the dispute and the parties involved.

Advantages of Arbitration

The attractions of arbitration over traditional litigation include cost-effectiveness, efficiency, privacy, simplified procedures, impartiality, and finality. Arbitration is often less expensive and faster than litigation, offering privacy and simplified procedures. Both parties select impartial arbitrators; awards are typically final and binding with effective arbitration.

Disadvantages of Arbitration

The disadvantages of arbitration include limited formal discovery, limited decision-making power for the parties, a lack of formal precedents, limited opportunities for appeal, potential claims arbitration issues, unpredictability, limited judicial review, and a lack of transparency. These factors can impact the ability to gather evidence, control the decision-making process, establish legal precedents, and seek recourse if dissatisfied with the outcome of disputes by arbitration.

Arbitration Procedure

The arbitration process involves the agreement to arbitrate, the identification of matters, the determination of the process and timetable, the development of arbitration, arbitrator selection, and the issuance of an award. It is a private process where parties submit their dispute to an arbitral institution, and the arbitrator(s) make a binding decision. The process is similar to a trial but less formal, and the arbitral awards can be either binding or non-binding.

Artificial Intelligence in Arbitration (Robotration)

AI is increasingly used in disputes through arbitration to improve efficiency, accuracy, and transparency. It assists with legal research, expert selection, and procedural automation. While AI can analyze subject matter and reduce time and cost, concerns about transparency and limited review exist. Nonetheless, the future of AI in arbitration is promising. It affects the role of arbitrators by facilitating informed selection, enhancing efficiency, and emphasizing human (judges) expertise. However, AI cannot replace human capabilities. Addressing concerns about data quality and biases is crucial for a fair arbitration process.

AI in arbitration, also known as 'Robotration,' can potentially improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, challenges related to data protection, bias, and the need for human oversight arise. AI may limit evidence discovery, perpetuate bias, and reduce transparency. Despite these concerns, the use of AI in arbitration is expected to grow. It is essential to address these issues to ensure a fair, transparent, and effective integration of AI as an independent arbitrator in the process.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) encompasses methods like mediation, arbitration, conciliation, negotiation, and transaction to resolve disputes outside traditional litigation. ADR allows parties to find mutually agreeable solutions without relying on governmental authority. Each method has its own rules and characteristics.

AI is crucial in advancing ADR by improving efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and decision-making through applications like predictive analytics and virtual assistants. Challenges include regulation, transparency, and the availability of skilled professionals. The intersection of AI and ADR holds promise for the future of dispute resolution, requiring collaboration between legal and technological domains to maximize arbitral decisions by the dispute board, if any.

International disputes

International disputes come under the purview of certain arbitration tribunals; these include:

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is a global trade association that provides policy advocacy and dispute resolution and sets rules for international trade. It has a vast membership of 45 million companies across 100 countries.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international arbitration centre that governs trade rules among nations. It has a dispute settlement system to resolve conflicts between member countries.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It settles legal disputes among states and provides advisory opinions on arbitration rules and legal questions referred to by UN organs and specialized agencies.

The global arbitration landscape trends in 2023 include:

Global Business Impact: Significant impact on businesses worldwide, presenting challenges and opportunities.

Insights into Dispute Resolution: In-depth analysis of key trends for global disputes and international arbitration.

Section 1782 Applicability: Noteworthy trend of Section 1782 application to ICSID (arbitral institution) tribunals for efficient discovery procedures in US courts.

Climate-Related Disputes Focus: Specific focus on arbitration for climate-related disputes, reflecting environmental considerations by technical experts.

Annual Top Trends Review: Forward-looking reviews of top trends in international arbitration panels.

Regional and Topical Developments: Exploration of regional and topical trends in international arbitration proceedings.

Emergency Relief Mechanisms: Increased use of emergency relief mechanisms for flexible and timely disputes to arbitration resolution.

Gender Equality in Arbitration: Growing attention to gender equality in arbitration hearings.

These trends highlight the dynamic nature of international arbitration.


Arbitration is a private and alternative dispute resolution process where parties agree to have their case heard by an arbitrator. Advantages of arbitral proceedings include cost-effectiveness, efficiency, privacy, impartiality, and finality. Disadvantages include limited formal discovery, decision-making power, and potential cost implications. Technology, data-driven arbitration decisions, emerging trends, arbitrator selection, and adopting new technologies will shape future disputes.


Does each country have its own arbitrator appointed by the government?

The appointment of arbitrators or sole arbitrator varies by jurisdiction. In some cases, parties have the autonomy to select arbitrators independently. However, certain countries may have specific procedures, and government-appointed personnel with deep understanding and experience in arbitration may be involved. The selection of arbitrators is influenced by the legal framework, institutional rules, and nature of the dispute. Expertise and neutrality are important factors in selecting arbitrators for a fair resolution.

What is commercial arbitration?

Commercial arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is used to resolve disputes arising out of commercial transactions. It is a private process that is conducted outside of the court system with the help of a neutral third-party arbitrator who is not involved in the dispute. The arbitrator is appointed by the parties to the dispute and has the power to make decisions and issue the arbitration award. The process is governed by the arbitration agreement between the parties.

What are Terms of Service in arbitration?

A Terms of Service (ToS) is a legal agreement between a service provider and a user that outlines the rules and regulations for using the service. An arbitration clause is a provision in the ToS that requires disputes to be resolved through arbitration rather than the court system. Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is faster and more cost-effective but can limit legal options and reduce transparency.

Usha Menon

With over 25 years of experience as an architect, urban designer, and green building consultant, Usha has been designing sustainable, and visionary spaces. She has published a book, has been actively blogging, and is on social media. Now, her journey is transitioning to full-time writing. Her words will continue to craft stories, not brick and mortar, but in the realm of ideas, fostering a better, more inspired world.


  1. […] Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process where an impartial arbitrator or panel reviews evidence and arguments to make a binding decision, known as the arbitration award. It offers advantages such as confidentiality, efficiency, and a tailored resolution process, making it quicker and more cost-effective than court proceedings. […]

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