ArbitrationNation Roadmap: When Should You Choose JAMS, AAA Or CPR Rules?

Albert Einstein supposedly once said “you have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” In arbitration, that means figuring out which organizations’ rules are best suited for your arbitration clause. This post is designed to help drafters make that decision by giving a quick and dirty overview of the similarities and differences between the administered rules for commercial disputes at the three most common arbitration providers: AAA, JAMS, and CPR.

Generally speaking, the rules of the three organizations are very similar. That said, attorneys and clients should consider the following:

  • FEES:  In addition to hourly arbitrator rates, all three organizations have some kind of administrative/filing fee.  JAMS charges this administrative fee as a function of the arbitrator’s time and thus may be the most cost-effective for short arbitrations. On the other hand, AAA and CPR charge on claim value.  Between those two organizations, AAA is more cost-effective for claims under $5,000,000, while CPR becomes cheaper for claims above that figure.
  • DEFAULT AWARD: JAMS and AAA do not allow arbitrators to render an award solely on the basis of default or absence of a party. CPR, on the other hand, does provide for a default award.  However, all three organizations require an arbitrator to consider substantive evidence before ruling against an absent party.
  • DISCOVERY: JAMS has a detailed set of Expedited Procedures parties can adopt that limit discovery (for example, to one deposition per party) and preclude dispositive motions.  The AAA also allows parties to adopt its Expedited Procedures (those procedures apply automatically to disputes under $75,000), but the procedures do not expressly limit discovery and instead generally adopt shorter timelines for the arbitration.  If speed and efficiency of arbitration is your number one goal, the Expedited Procedure under JAMS are a great choice. On the other hand, for parties anticipating a more complex dispute, or needing more flexibility in discovery, the general commercial rules of these organizations all allow the arbitrator(s) to tailor the discovery to the needs of the case.
  • ARBITRATORS: The three organizations all have similar, and complicated, methods for selecting arbitrations if (okay, when) the parties cannot agree on their own.  The number of available arbitrators varies, though.  Our best research indicates there are over 3,600 on the AAA roster, 500-600 on the CPR roster, and approximately 150-300 on the JAMS roster.
  • AWARD DEADLINES: JAMS and AAA explicitly require 30 days’ time in which arbitrators must render a final award. However, the CPR’s 30-day requirement is more of a “best efforts” suggestion than a hard and fast rule.  Thus, parties looking to get to the final award as quickly as possible may want to choose JAMS or AAA.
  • MOTION PRACTICE: AAA and CPR do not explicitly provide for summary disposition, but the JAMS Comprehensive Arbitration rules do (the Comprehensive rules are for claims over $250,000. JAMS has a  Streamlined set of rules for claims under $250,000).  Thus, drafting parties who want to ensure the possibility of summary disposition are better off looking to JAMS’ Comprehensive rules.

Of course, there are many more rules for each organization and other important issues to consider.  However, this list should give drafters a good starting point for analyzing which arbitral forum (and specific rules in that forum) are best for their arbitration agreement.

**ArbitrationNation thanks Max Corey, a student at University of Virginia School of Law, for his work on this post.