Difference between arbitrator and mediator

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Disputes can arise at any time anywhere. They have to be resolved either mutually amongst the parties for which the services of a mediator or an arbitrator may be required. These are alternative methods of dispute resolution outside the purview of the judiciary. The choice of the arbitrator or mediator is made depending on the context and the situation. There are differences between the roles they play which can be illustrated as follows.

Meaning of the terms:

Arbitrator: He is considered to be a neutral person who is authorized to resolve disputes between two parties outside the litigation process.

Mediator: He is a person who is acceptable to both the parties and resolves disputes between parties, organizations etc by the process of initiating a meaningful dialog between them.

Role play:

Arbitrator: He is more of the type of a judge who provides solutions which are legally binding on both the parties.

Mediator: He is not a person who will deliver any judgment. He is more of a facilitator who can help in arriving at a mutually acceptable solution to the disputed between two parties.

Where do they become applicable?

Arbitrator: An arbitrator is chosen in case of major dispute where the parties are unreasonable or especially when expertise is required in a specific field.

Mediator: He comes into the picture when the parties do not wish to enter into a litigation process and are amenable to solve the disputes among themselves. An element of confidentiality can also be the reason why people prefer to have a mediator resolve their disputes rather than going for an arbitration process. He is a person who is acceptable to both the parties. The knowledge of the issue in contention plays a very important role in this aspect.


Arbitrator: His judgment is final and binding on the parties involved.

Mediator: He is a person who does not deliver any judgment. He is considered more of a facilitator of dialog between the parties and comes up with a solution which is mutually agreeable to both the parties. Such an agreement is not legally binding on anybody.

Cost and Time factor:

Administrator: This process takes a lot of time as the arbitrator has to listen to both sides of the story and evaluate all the facts as well as examine the evidence before arriving at a decision which would be legally binding on all parties. The relation between the arbitrator and the parties ends here. The costs involved in an arbitration process are much higher.

Mediator: As a mediator is usually a person known to both the parties, their relationship does not end with the resolution of the dispute. A mediator is a person who tries to stitch together the commonalities between the two parties and tries to arrive at a mutually agreeable consensus. This process is not as lengthy as an arbitration process.

How the disputes get resolved:

Arbitrator: He is a person who has to strictly by the rules and laws of the land and takes a neutral approach.

Mediator: He is free to employ any method of resolution provided the same is acceptable to both the parties. The procedure followed by him may differ from case to case and does not follow any strict guideline as such.

Qualities to be had:

Arbitrator: Experience and expertise in the subject with the ability to analyze a dispute and render a fair-minded judgment are the main qualities an arbitrator should have.

Mediator: He should a person who should have the trust of both the parties and should be able to maintain the confidentiality of the issue. He should have the capacity to bring both the parties to the same table and facilitate a meaningful dialog and arrive at a decision which may be mutually acceptable.

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