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Pro se arbitrations/mediations - What are your thoughts?

How can arbitration/mediation of pro se matters be improved?

Please provide your thoughts/comments below?

Comments (10)

steve conover:

No clear means to improve. Even seasoned arbitrators consume more time with self-represented parties. The arbitrator walks a fine line, since there is a perception that the legally represented party is at a disadvantage due to the latitude afforded the self‐represented party.
While some latitude should be given to self-represented parties who may be unfamiliar with the arbitration process, there are no special rules of procedure for, or special obligations to, a self‐represented party in an arbitration
proceeding beyond the basic procedural requirements for any arbitration: an impartial arbitrator, procedural fairness of notice, and a fair or reasonable opportunity to submit and to respond to the adversary's case.

The overarching test is fairness.

Margarita Echevarria:

One effective way is to provide a roster of pro bono legal representatives to ensure there is parity in representation for the pro se party.


One idea is to make available a "how-to" manual. Make no mistake: Generally a party will do better with counsel than without. But an inexpensive short volume available online (through Amazon or at forum web site) that outlines how the arbitration process works, with sections on preliminary hearings, document exchange, discovery, motion practice, and especially the final hearing, which should be covered in some detail, would enable the pro-se advocate to be a little more comfortable with the process.


Pro Se cases are difficult. AAA has a training
video which is helpful. It is difficult to get pro se parties to both focus on the issues and fully understand the process at the same times

It may even be more work for the arbitration to move the case forward

Jose W Cartagena:

Keep the lawyers out of the process! Not even the mediator or the arbitrator can be lawyers. Bring common sense into the process. Mind you, I am an arbitrator and mediator who happens to be a lawyer.

I have created special disclosure statements and agendas for preliminary teleconference meetings in arbitration and mediation involving pro se participants. The language is simpler and there are added clarifications. There is additional language about the role of the arbitrator and mediator. Some year's ago (2014) the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued very practical standards to give guidance to judges dealing with pro se litigants. I follow those.

James Bowdish:

This is easy. In the absence of AAA rules giving unequal treatment and breaks to unrepresented parties, the AAA rules should be applied equally to all parties. Otherwise the unrepresented parties will be given an unfair advantage resulting in driving up legal expenses to the represented party. If prevailing party attorneys’ fees are awarded to the represented party, the extra fees caused by the arbitrator’s breaks to the unrepresented party will then be imposed on the unrepresented party. It is absurd and contrary to everything the AAA stands for to treat the parties unequally. Only a liberal Democrat would think otherwise.


I am presently acting as an arbitrator in a case where one side is pro se and the other has counsel. It makes for a difficult hearing. I want to help the pro se parties procedurally to expedite the matter but I hesitate to give much advise. With the permission of both parties I did meet each separately to suggest mediation but that was not successful. The AAA could create a panel of pro bono attorneys to help pro se parties but that might seem unfair to the party who has hired their own attorney. Any advise would be appreciated.

David G Anderson:

Pro se cases are more difficult -- for everyone.

Nonetheless, the dispute process must be fair and efficient. Fairness to both parties can be achieved. Efficiency is what suffers.

What make the pro se case more difficult is not just the pro se litigant's unfamiliarity with the dispute process, but also that most pro se litigants lack financial resources. Some can't even pay their share of the arbitration fees. The AAA referring the pro se party to a local law school clinic for guidance could help.

The AAA assigns a pro se case administrator to pro se cases. I understand these AAA administrators have special training in pro se cases. I don't the extent to which they work with the pro se party, but I'm glad to have this buffer.

In arbitrations, the panel can only really help the pro se with the process (e.g. how the process works). Doing anything more risks the arbitrator's impartiality. Mediations are a little bit different. In a mediation, particularly in a caucus, the mediator can help educate the pro se party on what the law says (assuming they do not know, which is frequently the case) -- not advising them what to do.

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