Not only are you under an oath to tell the truth, but should the arbitrator sense that your testimony is less than honest in any regard, he or she will be much less likely to believe other aspects of your testimony. Like judges, arbitrators are experts at separating fact from fiction. And like a judge or a jury, if the arbitrator believes you are untruthful about something, he or she may be skeptical about your honesty concerning other parts of your testimony as well.
It almost goes without saying that you should treat your arbitrator with as much respect as you would a judge. You should also treat your opponent with respect, as this will affect how your arbitrator views you as a person. Regardless of what bad or angry words may have been exchanged prior to coming to arbitration, wipe the slate clean. It never hurts to be polite, but it can hurt you if you are not. Arbitrators do observe and can be affected by the statements, conduct, professionalism and decorum of the parties.
Please be timely with your emails. Long periods without contact become uncomfortable for everyone, so if you need an extra day or are going to be away for a few days, let your arbitrator know in a timely manner.
Think about a hearing as if it was a good book by a favorite author. The two are very much alike in how they are organized. The beginning of the book is where the author tells you the basic things you will need to know so that the rest of the story will make the most sense to you. For example, does the action take place on a farm, at sea, or during a war? Is the story set in medieval times, during the 1800's, or present day. Who are the main characters and how are they associated? All of these things are essential so that you can build a good mental framework for the rest of the story details. Without a good beginning, a lot of the story would be confusing and you would lose a lot of the book's meaning.
In a hearing, you are the author and the arbitrator is your reader. An opening statement is your chance to lay good foundation for the arbitrator so that the rest of your testimony and other evidence has the most meaning and impact.
That is what goes into a good opening statement. What doesn't belong in an opening statement are the specific details about your case. Save those for later, after your arbitrator has had time to absorb both opening statements and ask any questions he or she may have. And because your opening statement isn't loaded with a lot of details, it should be short – usually no more than two pages. If yours is significantly longer than that, go back over it because there is bound to be too many details.
The final thing you want to include with your opening statement is the result you are hoping to get from the arbitrator if he or she decides in your favor. Be careful not to overreach though; you don't want to make a bad impression by looking greedy or unreasonable.
The last part of your hearing is called a "closing argument". Contrast that with the first part of the hearing which was called an "opening statement". The difference between the words "opening" and "closing" is easy to understand. But note of the difference between "statement" and "argument". That distinction is often missed by the average person.
In legal terms, a statement is a factual description of the events and circumstances relevant to the dispute. In contrast, a legal argument explains the logical reason the testimony and evidence must lead the arbitrator to a decision in your favor.
There are two important parts to a logical argument: the premises and the conclusion. Both must be made as clearly as possible. To understand the distinction, consider them in reverse order. The conclusion is what you are arguing for – what you want the arbitrator do. Then think carefully through the specific reasons that lead to that conclusion – these are the premises. In a sound logical argument, it is impossible to accept the premises being true without also accepting the conclusion.
The saying "Less is more" applies to closing arguments. Your goal is to focus the arbitrator's attention on the key facts that support your conclusion. Including petty or irrelevant issues only dilutes the impact of your key argument. With the Hearing Transcript readily available there is no need to repeat large chunks of testimony. A closing argument may not introduce new evidence.
Finish your closing argument by restating exactly what you hope the arbitrator's decision will be. Finally, leave a good impression … end by thanking the arbitrator for his or her time and consideration of your case.
Good communication is essential!