The Fundamentals of Arbitration

The Fundamentals of Arbitration


Jonathan H. Hamilton, Editor in Chief


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Used for hundreds of years and adapted to a variety of contexts, arbitration is a form of adjudicative dispute settlement where parties consent to selecting third-party neutrals that resolve a specific dispute by applying the applicable law to the facts. Part of arbitration’s success involves its flexibility in adapting procedures and selecting applicable law to meet parties’ unique needs, including having some control over the appointment of an arbitrator who may have unique substantive expertise. Parties may agree to arbitration hoping to avoid the time-consuming, expensive, and complex process of litigation by streamlining or tailoring dispute mechanics. Yet, it is not empirically verifiable that arbitration always saves time and costs, as assessing relative savings requires comparison to a national court and there are over 190 national judiciaries to which arbitration could be compared, as well as nonadjudicative forms of dispute resolution like direct negotiation and mediation. As parties inevitably negotiate in the “shadow of the law,” arbitration aids the assessment of conflict management options; and, particularly internationally, arbitration remains a powerful tool that incentivizes voluntary compliance with awards and streamlines enforcement.

Despite the availability of many types of arbitration with different policy considerations, the parties’ consent to it and their agreement to arbitrate (including the applicable law) is the backbone of this form of dispute settlement. Arbitration agreements require parties to make core choices, such as deciding on the scope of agreements submitted to arbitration, the legal place of arbitration, and applicable rules. Such an agreement then provides the framework for fundamental elements of the proceedings, namely, the basis of the tribunal’s jurisdiction and power over the dispute, the standards for appointing arbitrators, the structure and rules of the proceedings, and the content and form of derivative awards. Having a valid arbitration agreement (and an arbitration proceeding conducted in accordance with those legal obligations) also influences whether courts at the place of arbitration will set the award aside and whether courts at a place of enforcement will recognize and enforce an arbitration award. In the modern era, arbitration will continue evolving to address concerns about local policy considerations (particularly in national arbitration), confidentiality and ethics, technology and cybersecurity, diversity and inclusion, and to ensure arbitration is an ongoing value proposition.


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Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance


Oxford University Press




Oxford Research Encyclopedias


dispute resolution, adjudication, arbitration, arbitration agreement, separability, competence-competence, Seat of arbitration, arbitration award, vacatur, set aside, enforcement, New York Convention


Dispute Resolution and Arbitration | Law | Law and Economics

The Fundamentals of Arbitration