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Arbitration and Mediation are two alternatives for dispute resolution and are used in place of the litigation process. The choice depends on the context and situation. The difference between an arbitrator and a mediator lies in their role and whether the agreement or judgment is binding.

Comparison chart

Arbitrator versus Mediator comparison chart
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Meaning An arbitrator is a neutral person chosen to resolve disputes outside the courts. A Mediator is usually one who resolves disputes between people, organizations, states or any other communities.
Judgment An arbitrator’s judgment is considered final and binding. A mediator does not deliver a judgment. A mediator facilitates dialog between the 2 parties and it is up to them to come to an agreement. An agreement reached after mediation is not binding.
Applicability An arbitrator gains importance in case of major disputes or; when the parties are unreasonable; or when a specific area of expertise is required. A mediator is usually chosen to resolve a minor dispute; or when the parties do not wish to enter the litigation track; or when confidentiality of the issue is required; or when knowledge of the issue is critical.
Role An arbitrator is a judge of the dispute and provides resolution measures which is binding on the parties. A mediator is more a facilitator who assists in developing options and achieving a mutually agreed resolution. He does not make a decision for the parties.

Differences in role of an arbitrator and mediator

Mediators not only assist in resolving disputes but also to prevent disputes. They play a pivotal role in identifying mutual interests and promoting healthy communication between the 2 parties involved. They encourage effective interaction and help in arriving at a mutually agreeable resolution. Thus mediators do not render a judgment but facilitate dialog to reach an agreement.

An arbitrator is one who delivers a fair judgment to resolve a dispute. The arbitrator's decision may or may not be favorable to one or more parties involved; however, the arbitrator is a neutral third party chosen by the disputing parties in lieu of litigating in court. The role of the arbitrator is to render a judgment in the dispute and this judgment is legally binding, unless the parties have agreed beforehand that the judgment will not be binding.

Cost, Time & Outcome

It often takes lesser time to mediate a dispute and the fee charged by the mediator is more often lesser. There is also more likelihood of the relationship between the parties and the mediator to continue longer term (beyond just one dispute), since the mediator often seeks to keep the parties talking and working with each other by reaching a consensus.

Arbitration usually takes longer and costs more because the arbitrator needs to evaluate all the facts, hear all sides of the story, examine all the evidence and make a ruling that is legally binding. Usually cases handled by arbitrators involve parties who no longer work together after the dispute ends. Therefore the same parties are not likely to work with the same arbitrator again.

Modus Operandi

A mediator has the autonomy to employ any method that may be suitable for that specific issue and does not have any strict guidelines to go by. An arbitrator usually goes strictly by the legal restrictions and follows a neutral approach in resolving disputes.

Qualities of an arbitrator and mediator

Fair-mindedness, experience, expertise and the ability to objectively analyze a dispute and render a verdict are the essential qualities of an arbitrator. Trust, neutrality, confidentiality, adherence to legalities, patient listening, knowledge about the issues, and ability to facilitate dialog and get warring parties to talk to each other are the critical qualities of a mediator.


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"Arbitrator vs Mediator." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 16 Jan 2019. < >