Arbitration in the United States has evolved to keep pace with the increasingly complex and fast-moving world of commerce. In the early part of the 20th Century, arbitration was used most commonly in contracts for the sale of goods and in the construction field. The typical case was modest in size and complexity, the arbitrator was expected to have experience in the pertinent field of business and a reasoned award was not requested.
As business people and their legal advisers gained experience with arbitration and recognized its advantages over traditional litigation, they routinely included provisions in contracts for arbitration of disputes. Arbitration is now very common in such diverse areas as banking, high technology, inter-corporate contracts for goods and services, public works and procurement, electric power marketing, intellectual property, telecommunications, entertainment, pharmaceuticals and health care. The stakes in these new areas of arbitration activity tend to be very high and the issues in dispute complex.
Non-lawyer industry experts are still sometimes chosen to serve as arbitrators but there is a distinct trend, in large, complex cases, to choose persons with legal training and experience with complex litigation. Reasoned awards are expected in most major cases. Commonly used arbitration rules increasingly provide for some of the trappings of litigation, such as provisional remedies, discovery and summary adjudication motions.
Parallel with these developments is the growth of neutral organizations of national scope which promote the use of arbitration and other forms of non-judicial dispute resolution. These organizations typically provide rules of procedure and case administration and may offer specially trained and qualified panels of arbitrators for larger and more complex cases. Numerous regional and local provider organizations are also a part of the modern dispute resolution landscape.
Although commercial arbitration is expanding and maturing, no accepted standards of arbitrator qualifications and performance have been developed. In related fields, selective professional bodies have been created to assure the user public of the qualifications and experience of members. Examples include the National Academy of Arbitrators in the labor arbitration field and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Prior to formation of the College of Commercial Arbitrators, the founders believed there was no selective body of experienced professionals in service of commercial arbitrators who devote substantial portions of their time to such work. Thus, the user public lacked the assurance of qualification and performance that such a professional body could provide.
In 1995, Stephen Hayford published an article entitled “Commercial Arbitration in Evolution: An Assessment and Call for Dialogue.” Professor Hayford asserted that “the task of shepherding commercial arbitration to maturity is most appropriately taken up by the mainline arbitrators who sit at its center.” He went on to aver that those core neutral practitioners were best suited to lead the development of the shared professional identity and conscience that would be essential to the institutionalization of commercial arbitration as an essential, permanent part of the American alternative dispute resolution milieu.
Two years later Stephen was approached by Richard Chernick and Larry Waddington. Rich and Larry proposed to move forward with the formation of the commercial arbitrators’ organization Stephen had first advocated in 1995. Under Rich and Larry’s leadership the group met in 1999 and took the first steps toward creation of the College of Commercial Arbitrators. In 2001, the group formed and incorporated the College of Commercial Arbitrators.
The College of Commercial Arbitrators is a not-for-profit corporation formed under California law. The College meets as an organization at least once each year (where possible in close proximity to the annual meetings of major dispute resolution organizations). The Board of Directors or Executive Committee meet at least quarterly to address business and operational issues. Annual Dues are currently set at $500 but are subject to adjustment on an annual basis.