David Reeder has alerted his clients to an important deadline when a dispute goes to arbitration.

Mr. Reeder is a member of the Fee Dispute Arbitration Panel of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. As an arbitrator, he acts as a judicial officer deciding disputes – for example, between law firms and their clients regarding legal fees.

The parties to the dispute often hire counsel to present their case, resulting in an arbitration that in many ways is similar to the trial of a civil action in the State or Federal Courts.

The parties may stipulate to binding arbitration, which makes the arbitrator’s decision final and not subject to appeal. 

The alternative is non-binding arbitration, which can be appealed – provided you act quickly.

Mr. Reeder warns that anyone involved in a non-binding arbitration has only 60 days after the award is issued to request a trial in the Superior Court.

If the 60-day deadline passes without a request for trial, the award becomes a binding judgment of the court. In other words, it is at that point just as final as a binding arbitration, despite its initial designation as “non-binding.”

If the party who is not pleased with the award is misled by the term “non-binding” and delays asking for a trial, he or she will be in for a rude awakening when the award becomes a “judgment by operation of law.”