The author has been a full-time labor-management arbitrator since 1954. He has worked extensively in the steel, automotive parts, construction equipment, and beer industries. He was president of the National Academy of Arbitrators in 1997-1998.
To succeed as an arbitrator, one must grow into the role. No one is born with a judicial temperament, and the difficulty is that there is no true school for arbitrators. Few among us have had the benefit of a full-time mentor to alert us to the practices and pitfalls of the profession. Arbitrators receive little feedback from the parties who alone are in a position to offer constructive criticism regarding their performance. Arbitrators simply learn by doing and perhaps after several hundred cases the true nature of the arbitrator’s job begins to take form.
Most arbitrators have the ability to run a hearing, analyze evidence, and write an opinion. But to achieve excellence, each of these skills must be carefully honed. Mere repetition—the number of cases heard and decided—will not guarantee excellence. Something more is necessary. It is my belief, after some 45 years of practice, that the qualities essential to the development of an arbitrator are self-discipline, self-restraint, and selfcriticism.