Supporting the Profession: The Case for State Licensure of Arbitrators - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 71, No. 3
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
“To have the opportunity to lead the Solicitor General’s office is the honor of a lifetime. As you know, this is an office with a long and rich tradition, not only of extraordinary legal skill but also of extraordinary professionalism and integrity. That is due, in large measure, to the people who have led it.”
- Justice Elena Kagan during her Senate
confirmation hearing for Solicitor General
Justice Kagan’s quote above underscores the impact to the Solicitor General’s Office of those who have demonstrated integrity and professionalism in leading the organization. It can also serve as a reminder to all who practice arbitration that the same level of leadership, integrity and professionalism is demanded of those who provide dispute resolution services. And, like Justice Kagan’s observation correctly points out, maintenance of those standards will principally be the byproduct of those employed in the process. However, unlike our public servants, arbitrator’s capabilities are largely judged by unconventional means. Peer references, well drafted resumes and, more often than not, the less than objective reviews of former clients are the principal methods our clients have to protect themselves against the dreaded “rogue arbitrator.” As arbitration is principally a private forum, there is no open record of an arbitrator’s capabilities nor comprehensive library of published awards to which future clients can refer. And, unlike many other professions, there is no established regulatory body that can provide clients the quality and competence assurances that come from stringent professional oversight, review and approval.
As an example, the professions of law, medicine and engineering all require a state-granted license to practice in the field. While some may argue that licensing has the unintended effect of limiting competition and thereby driving up cost, most consumers recognize licensure for what it is – a reasonable effort to protect the public from the vagaries of the unregulated marketplace thereby preventing personal injury, financial damage and negative societal impact.