FINAL EPISODE (5)
Sometimes arbitrators want comprehensive opening statements – and sometimes they don’t. It depends on the case, the bundles, the legal authorities, the witnesses. Where it is unnecessary, say so. But where it is necessary, consider the issues and ask the question – does the Tribunal need to listen? Will it help or will it hinder. Different cases have different characters and you need to be alert.
But alertness is a question of experience. You acquire experience step by step. In this sense you are always learning – always gaining in wisdom. It continues throughout your career and here – a relevant warning. Never think you know it all. Never assume you have all the answers.
“Oh, I’ve seen this before. I know what to do”. Do you? Are you sure? Have you thought it through? Knee-jerk reactions are not a good style of work. Always maintain the “On the One Hand And On The Other Hand” approach. Always see both sides. Understand where the parties are coming from – what are their priorities?
Stay professional. Be friendly but not chummy. Be detached but not distant. Ask yourself questions and never become complacent. Chairing an arbitration and doing a good job is a very fulfilling activity. But it is like washing your face – you have to do it three or four times a day.
Topics for future consideration; – the over-talkative witness; the fellow arbitrator with a time problem; too much central-heating; tension with the administration; bumping into advocates in a social setting; how to express your different view in the retiring room and, finally, workmen on the outside.