Arbitration is the private process by which a dispute is presented to - and decided by - a neutral arbitrator (or panel of three arbitrators) retained by the parties or appointed by an administering institution or appointing authority agreed upon by the parties. . The decision of the arbitrator (called an "award") is final subject to limited grounds of appeal such as  fraud, misconduct by the arbitrator, or refusal to hear material evidence.

The answer depends on how complicated the dispute is, how many parties there are, whether the arbitration is being administered, whether there will be one or three arbitrators, how easily (or whether) the parties agree on the arbitrator(s), and other variables. An "average" commercial dispute has the arbitrator selected within 90 days of its filing.

Most of the time, the parties will have signed an agreement providing for arbitration in the event of a dispute. Such agreements are fully enforceable in American courts (and the courts of many other countries), and an award may be obtained against a party who agreed to arbitrate but refuses to participate in the process. If you do not have a pre-existing agreement to arbitrate, the same advantages that appeal to you about arbitration may well appeal to the other side: having the ability to select your own arbitrator(s); saving time and money with this streamlined process; avoiding publicity (arbitrations are private, unlike court proceedings); flexibility - the arbitration process can be designed specifically to meet the needs of the particular dispute.

As with setting up the arbitration, the length of the hearing process itself depends on the nature and complexity of the dispute. Unlike many court systems, however, the parties can count on having the hearings on the scheduled dates, at the scheduled times, and at a location of their choice. Averages are meaningless, but a "garden variety" arbitration will usually be heard in two to five days. Normally, the arbitrator's award will be rendered within 30 days from the latter of of the last hearing date or filing of post-hearing briefs.

The most important difference is that the parties retain much more control over the handling of their dispute. For example, the parties can select a particular arbitrator (or three). And, if all parties agree, any procedural rules (e.g., American Arbitration Association Commercial Rules, JAMS Comprehensive Arbitration Rules and Procedures, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution Administered Arbitration Rules, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, International Chamber of Commerce Rules, UNCITRAL Rules) can be used; hearings can be held at any time, in any place. The hearings are private, so the public and news media may not attend. The setting is less formal than in court. Much of the costly "discovery" process of court litigation is frequently avoided.

The arbitrator renders a decision (called an "award"). Depending on the parties' agreement, this decision may range from a simple statement of who won and what they won, to a lengthy opinion giving all the reasons for the arbitrator's decision. In all countries who are signatories to the 1958 United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (known as the "New York Convention"), an arbitration award issued in another signatory country may be turned into a court judgment, and enforced as such.

The answer will depend on the parties’ arbitration agreement or the rules of the organization designated to administer the arbitration or appoint the arbitrators.  For example, under the Rules of the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR), which is the international branch of the American Arbitration Association, the parties may request that the ICDR appoint a neutral arbitrator who is not a national of the countries of any of the parties, and the ICDR also may do so on its own initiative.  The AAA/ICDR frequently calls upon established arbitration organizations of other countries to supplement its list of "foreign" arbitrators.  Other organizations within the United States feature international panels of arbitrators from within the United States and from outside the United States.  For example, the International Institute of Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) Cross-Border Disputes Panel is composed of neutrals located in North America, and the CPR Global Panel includes neutrals located worldwide, outside of North America.   JAMS International maintains an arbitration panel with arbitrators from the United States and most countries in Europe.  

Yes.   This web site provides the biographies of many of the Fellows, and contact information for all of them. Any administering agency will provide the biographies of all prospective arbitrators to the parties before selection is made. Some parties choose to interview prospective arbitrators in advance of the hearing. In this instance, unless the Arbitrator is a “party appointed” arbitrator, all parties to the arbitration should be represented at the interview, so that the neutrality of the prospective arbitrator will not be compromised. If necessary, references should also be made available.

In more complicated disputes, parties often choose a more experienced arbitrator. These arbitrators are compensated on an hourly basis or per diem basis.  The rates charged by arbitrators vary depending on skill, experience, qualifications and the nature of the dispute. Administering agencies, if one is used, also charge separate administrative fees which also vary with the length of the arbitration hearings, and other resources used. Other institutional providers may charge a flat hourly fee and take a percentage of the arbitrator's fee.

This site provides more information, including some form agreements and clauses which may be helpful.  Other services that administer arbitrations would be glad to provide information on their services, as well as general information on arbitration.  Individual arbitrators may also be willing to provide information, but keep in mind that the arbitrators you ask may then not be able to serve on the particular case you consult with them about.