The arbitration process generally begins with the filing of a request for arbitration. This action may be performed by direct application to the forum designated in the private arbitration agreement or by court order. Parties who simply wish to arbitrate a matter should contact a local entity that offers arbitration services. Often, a local circuit or district court may have information or services available. There are several national organizations that also offer local arbitrations or supply lists of arbitrators (see listings below).
The chosen forum will most likely furnish the parties with a copy of rules and procedures. Attorneys may or may not represent the parties. Generally, an arbitration hearing parallels a court trial, in that there is the taking of testimony from witnesses and the introduction of evidence. However, many arbitrations are conducted on the basis of “summary briefs” from each party, which outline the issues and the arguments in document form. Arbitration decisions are always in written form. A decision may or may not be appealable, depending on the forum and the agreement of the parties.