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CEO DATELINE – Arbitrators mostly white and male, trial lawyers say in new report

June 7, 2021
By Kathryn Walson

Arbitrators at three of the country’s largest arbitration service providers are predominately male and white, according to a new report by the American Association for Justice, CNBC reported Monday.

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Women make up less than a third of overall arbitrators at JAMS, American Arbitration Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, while fewer than one in five are Asian, Black, Hispanic and races other than white. AAJ’s report, released June 7, is titled “Where White Men Rule: How the Secretive System of Forced Arbitration Hurts Women and Minorities.”

Gender and race demographics in the report are based on self-disclosed data from JAMS, AAA and FINRA.

Arbitration is a method for resolving disputes out of court. AAJ, an association for trial lawyers, has as one of its top advocacy priorities getting the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act through Congress, according to its website.

“For minorities and women, forced arbitration not only eliminates the jury but also all but ensures their case will be decided by a white male,” AAJ’s report says. “A consumer is more likely to be struck by lightning than win a monetary award in forced arbitration as it is; being Black or female reduces their prospects even further.”

Websites for JAMS, AAA and FINRA highlight initiatives they are taking to make their industry more diverse. JAMS say it is “steadfast in pursuing increased diversity among ADR practitioners” and invites “law firms, corporations and legal organizations to consider women and ethnically diverse mediators and arbitrators and consider utilizing a Diversity and Inclusion Clause for arbitration contracts.”

AAA’s mission and vision statement assert a “shared commitment to a diverse roster of arbitrators and mediators.” The AAA Roster is composed of 27% women and minorities. AAA created the Higginbotham Fellows Program in 2009 to provide training, networking and mentorship for up-and-coming diverse ADR practitioners.

FINRA Dispute Resolution Services launched an “aggressive campaign to recruit new arbitrators with a particular focus on adding arbitrators from diverse backgrounds, professions, and geographical location.” To track its progress, FINRA hired a third-party consultant to conduct surveys on demographics, and FINRA shares the breakdown of women and people of color on its website.