Preliminary Hearings – Why you should be prepared

If you are an attorney or appearing without an attorney in an arbitration, you should be well prepared for the preliminary hearing.  Due to the little detail provided in a demand to arbitrate, it is essential for you to understand that arbitrator usually sets essential dates for the arbitration.  Since only a limited amount of information is exchanged in the early stages of arbitration, preparation for the hearing would be wise.  It is surprising that many attorneys do not realize that they are required to participate in a preliminary hearing, although this is a critical step in the arbitration process.  To obtain the benefits of arbitration and obtain the necessary information to present your case or defense, plan ahead.

Prior to the preliminary hearing, look at available dates for the evidentiary hearing.   Many parties select arbitration to streamline the process and to obtain an adjudication of the claims within 180 days or less.  To achieve this goal, think about the following:

  • The scope of discovery.
  • The dates for exchanging documents.
  • Deadlines for discovery cut-off
  • Deadlines for Exhibit Lists.
  • Deadlines for Witness Lists.
  • Dates for exchanging expert reports.
  • Whether either party plans to file any prehearing motions, and if so, the dates for filing and replying to them.
  • How much time each side will need for direct and cross-examination at the evidentiary hearing.
  • Do the parties request an oral closing argument or will brief submissions suffice?
  • Whether the parties want a court reporter?

The Attorneys also should discuss the form of the award and all the claims and crossclaims included.  Attorneys should be aware that the more detailed an award, the more cost to the client. Obviously, the Arbitrator charges for the time taken to draft the award but all issues should be resolved at one time, rather than raising issues omitted from the award.