Private arbitration is the fastest growing form of dispute resolution worldwide. Schiff Hardin has decades of experience in presenting and defending claims governed by agreements to arbitrate. Without the formality of a judicial proceeding or extensive discovery, this dispute resolution mechanism can provide a swift, and frequently private, decision on our clients’ most important claims and defenses.  We bring to the table a deep familiarity with the rules of arbitration, experience with a range of industries and issues, and the kinds of presentation skills that are critically important in an arbitration setting.

Our lawyers are frequent speakers and writers on arbitration topics, and serve on boards and bar committees that focus on arbitration issues.

Commercial Arbitration

We have a strong record of success for our commercial clients in proceedings under the rules of the AAA, ICDR, JAMS, CPR or other arbitration services. Schiff Hardin lawyers have handled high-stakes commercial arbitrations in a wide range of disputes, including insurance claims, contract disputes, franchising and development rights, licensing and distribution agreements, environmental issues, construction claims, timeshare and real estate agreements. On behalf of major manufacturers, insurance companies, real estate brokerage franchisors, utilities and other businesses, we have prevailed on liability and damage claims involving not only domestic projects and agreements, but also the enforcement of rights across the globe.

We are also experienced in the interplay between the judicial system and arbitration proceedings.  We have moved successfully to compel arbitration where necessary, have addressed questions of consumer class arbitrability and waivers in the aftermath of Supreme Court decisions like Stolt-Nielsen and Concepcion v. AT&T, and have enforced arbitration awards in the courts under the Federal Arbitration Act and similar state statutes.

Construction Arbitration

Recognizing that cost and schedule are key driving factors in every construction project, our clients often look to arbitration and other forms of ADR for the creative, quick and cost-effective resolution of project disputes. For more than 30 years, our attorneys have arbitrated claims and defenses for owners, developers, design professionals and contractors. Through arbitration, we work closely with our clients to achieve success in a cost-effective manner outside of traditional litigation channels. We also focus on real-time resolution of disputes, often using the ADR process while the project is still ongoing. Our construction arbitration experience includes hearings on performance and delay claims, cost claims, and defect issues, among other topics.

Some of our partners also serve regularly as arbitrators for large complex disputes for the AAA and CPR Institute. We host one of the largest listservs on arbitration and mediation in the country, providing an educational resource to advance the quality of ADR nationwide.

Reinsurance Arbitration

Schiff Hardin’s reinsurance attorneys regularly and successfully arbitrate some of the most complex, high stakes disputes in the industry, resolved through ad hoc proceedings administered by the parties and the arbitration panel, rather than by a formal arbitration body. We have won arbitrations on behalf of cedents and reinsurers on a broad range of issues including warranty claims, asbestos and environmental disputes, property damage, personal accident, disability, and workers’ compensation carve-out schemes.

We arbitrate in the United States, London, and Bermuda, the most common venues for reinsurance arbitration. In addition, we have extensive experience litigating arbitration decisions in U.S. federal courts under the provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act. Most recently, we successfully confirmed a favorable arbitration order that had been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Arrowood Indem. Co. v. Trustmark Ins. Co., 560 Fed. Appx. 75 (2d Cir. 2014). Schiff Hardin had won the underlying arbitration on behalf of a reinsurer in a dispute over $10 million dollars that its fronting company had improperly paid to the cedent.

Financial Services Arbitrations

For more than 25 years, our Financial Markets attorneys have defended clients, including many of the largest broker-dealers in the country, in numerous arbitrations brought at self-regulatory organizations (such as Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and National Futures Association, (NFA)) and at financial exchanges.  Our financial services clients are required to arbitrate many of these claims, which are typically brought by other firms or customers. Some of our recent successes include defense awards at FINRA against claimants who had lost millions in their trading activities, as well as awards totaling more than $2 million on our clients’ counterclaims.

Labor and Employment Arbitration

Resolution of disputes through arbitration has a long history in the labor-management context, and Schiff Hardin’s labor and employment lawyers represent our unionized employer clients in labor arbitrations on a regular basis. In recent years, the use of arbitration to resolve employment disputes in the non-union setting has grown as the cost of employment discrimination and wage-hour litigation matters has skyrocketed. Our labor and employment lawyers have successfully compelled arbitration when employers have mandatory arbitration agreements, and have prevented such claims from being brought as class arbitrations where the parties did not agree to class treatment.

Service as Arbitrators

Many of our colleagues have been retained as arbitrators by arbitration services providers such as the AAA and CPR. In addition, several Schiff Hardin lawyers work regularly with state and federal judicial arbitration programs, by serving as arbitrators for the court systems in Chicago, San Francisco and other cities.

  • Experience

    Representative Matters

    • Schiff Hardin obtained a $43 million award in favor of our client the FDIC, in a dispute arising from tax benefit obligations under a federal assistance agreement.
    • Schiff Hardin represented an international franchisor in its successful defense against a wrongful termination claim by the brand’s European licensee. The award in our client’s favor was affirmed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
    • After discovery in the U.S. and Asia, and arbitration proceedings before the ICC, we confirmed and obtained payment of a $6 million award for our client, a computer hardware manufacturer, and defeated a $3 million counterclaim.
    • As lead counsel for an NFL team against public entity stadium owner, we won an arbitration over the allocation of costs for implementing league-mandated security measures.
    • We successfully defended a medical equipment manufacturer client against a multimillion wrongful termination claim brought by a former Middle Eastern distributor.
    • In the environmental area, we have successfully arbitrated a number of eight and nine-figure claims, including the Duluth arbitration of a $100 million dispute regarding cleanup cost recovery, on behalf of our client GKN, and an $80 million environmental claim involving cleanup at a 100-year old Boston coke plant.
    • We prevailed for our client in an arbitration arising from the shipment of a tanker full of contaminated cargo to South America. The award granted our client all claimed damages plus 4 percent interest.
    • Schiff Hardin has substantial experience with arbitrations involving other post-closing disputes as well. For example, Schiff Hardin lawyers won a JAMS arbitration against the disappointed purchasers of our client’s multimillion dollar scaffolding business. After the buyers ceased to make their required payment, the arbitrator awarded our client approximately $1.5 million in damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.