Where Should You Litigate Your Business Dispute? In an Arbitration or through the Courts? - Chapter 22 - AAA Handbook on Commercial Arbitration, Third Edition
John H. Henn is an Arbitrator, and sometime ADR counsel to Foley Hoag LLP, in Boston, where he was a Partner for over thirty years. He serves on the commercial, large complex case, international and national panels of the American Arbitration Association. He also serves as an arbitrator for CRP and FINRA. He has over forty-five years of experience in business and commercial litigation and experience as a sole arbitrator and panel chairman. He can be reached at 617-832-1130; via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at http://johnhennarbitrator.com.
WHERE SHOULD YOU LITIGATE YOUR BUSINESS DISPUTE? IN AN ARBITRATION OR THROUGH THE COURTS?
John H. Henn
Lawyers who advise business entities commonly confront the question of whether to resolve disputes by arbitration. This question usually arises at the time the parties are negotiating a transaction agreement, including the matter of how if at all to provide for the resolution of future disputes. Often the decision is made, not as a result of any systematic consideration of the merits of arbitration versus a judicial forum, but rather as a result of anecdotal information about good or bad experiences with each process. This chapter aims to provide the basis for a more systematic consideration of the arbitral versus judicial alternatives.
At least since the early 1990s, arbitration has become more popular with American business, which has been moving away from resolving commercial and business disputes through courtroom litigation and toward arbitration. I use the term “courtroom litigation” to distinguish it from arbitration, which is also a form of litigation, because both processes are adversarial and are conducted before an independent, neutral decision maker. Courtroom litigation is always administered by independent administrative staff, while arbitration is administered by a neutral administrative body only if the parties agree to it. While an arbitral award can be voluntarily complied with by the losing party, often it must be entered in a court of law so that judicial mechanisms made possible by governmental power will allow for its enforcement against a noncomplying party. The era of judicial hostility to enforcing arbitration agreements, and enforcing arbitration awards, has been dead for several decades.