June 10, 2015

Paralegals and Arbitrations where more than $25,000 is at stake

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The following is a discussion of some considerations for paralegals considering arbitration where more than $25,000 is in dispute:

Competence – If a matter is above $25,000, a paralegal must be competent to handle it. Many tribunals including arbitral tribunals have no $25,000 limit and the paralegal must appreciate with this increased amount comes additional responsibility.

Retainer Agreement – Some disputes are over the interpretation of a clause in a contract, some are over a dollar amount. In fashioning a retainer agreement where a dollar amount over $25,000 is in dispute, it is suggested that the paralegal clarify in the retainer agreement that if the matter does not settle or does not go to arbitration, the paralegal will have to refer the matter to a lawyer to take to Court and that the paralegal will provide no advice on going to Court for more than $25,000. Hassell Arbitration’s understanding is that many paralegals have good working relationships with lawyers and this referral fosters goodwill and possibly an opportunity to assist the lawyer with the case on an ongoing basis.

Demand Letter – The demand letter should note that the paralegal’s involvement is for settlement purposes and arbitration only and should settlement fail and arbitration not be agreed upon, the matter will be referred to a lawyer to take to Court.

Arbitration – The conduct of an arbitration should be simpler, faster and easier than going to Court or a Tribunal. Our simple rules are 3-4 pages long, time to arbitrate is 2-4 weeks and all service and filing is by email. Even if a referral is needed to enforce an award greater than $25,000, the benefits of arbitration remain. Taking a claim over $25,000 through trial in Court with a lawyer will take years and over $10,000 in legal fees. Our arbitration fee for matters under $50,000 is roughly equivalent to the disbursements of going to Court under the simplified procedure.

Enforcement – Enforcement of claims over $25,000 will require a lawyer to take to Court. Evergreen Solutions v. Depositario stands for the proposition that enforcement of claims of $25,000 and under can be done in Small Claims Court. This case is under appeal and we will be closely watching the outcome.

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