"See You In Court...I Mean...Arbitration!" Part 3 (Speed and Finality)
Are speed and finality an advantage of arbitration over litigation?
In deciding whether you want your business disputes decided through arbitration rather than litigation, it helps to understand the general advantages and disadvantages of arbitration compared to litigation and to appreciate that not all of the supposed advantages are real. One of the supposed advantages is Confidentiality – the topic of the previous post in this The Candid Counsel series on arbitration. Other supposed advantages are Speed and Finality. They are the topic of today’s post.
Arbitration is supposed to be faster than litigation. The AAA Roadmap contemplates commercial business disputes lasting somewhere between 255 and 288 days – that is, the time between the arbitration demand (starting the arbitration) and the final decision of the arbitrator (following the final hearing). But that timeframe is not always the reality because parties often ask for deadlines to be extended and arbitrators often agree. By contrast, judges – many of whom have external pressures to keep their dockets moving – may resist delays.
In my own experience, I have seen arbitrations last much longer than court cases. Then again, many of my cases are in a federal court in Virginia that is famous for its “Rocket Docket.” Other federal courts do not have that track record. Therefore, as you evaluate the “speed” factor in deciding whether you prefer arbitration over litigation for your business – with the help of knowledgeable counsel – consider the specific courts that are most likely to have jurisdiction over the dispute and how long their cases typically take.
With very few exceptions, an arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. If you do not like the decision, you can try to get a court to reverse it but you will face an uphill battle because, by law, a court should show great deference to an arbitrator’s decision. By contrast, if you do not like a court’s decision, you have the right to appeal it to a higher court. That all takes time, of course, which figures into the “speed” factor.