Charles J. Coleman is professor of management at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., with appointments to the School of Business and the Department of Public Policy and Administration. He is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators. Gladys Gershenfeld is an arbitrator and a vice-president of the National Academy of Arbitrators.
Arbitrators do three things. They hear cases, make decisions and write them up. Even though they spend more time writing opinions than doing any other part of their job, the literature of arbitration rarely addresses opinion writing. This article provides a set of practical, down-toearth recommendations on writing better opinions. It examines the audience for the award, provides an alternative to the timehonored structure of the arbitration award, pinpoints a number of stylistic defects, and offers solutions to many conceptual issues and writing problems.
Arbitrators are selected for their judgment and their ability to communicate that judgment. While many books and articles discuss aspects of arbitral judgment, very few address the way that arbitrators communicate those judgments. A recently published bibliography of labor arbitration, for example, contained annotations of 1,336 books, monographs, journal articles and proceedings.1 Only seven entries addressed decision writing, and the standard bibles such as Elkouri and Elkouri2 or Bornstein, Gosline, and Greenbaum3 do not examine the topic at all.