Arbitration is a private process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments.
Arbitration is different from mediation because the neutral arbitrator has the authority to make a decision about the dispute.
The arbitration process is similar to a trial in that the parties make opening statements and present evidence to the arbitrator. Compared to traditional trials, arbitration can usually be completed more quickly and is less formal. For example, often the parties do not have to follow state or federal rules of evidence and, in some cases, the arbitrator is not required to apply the governing law.
After the hearing, the arbitrator issues an award. Some awards simply announce the decision (a "bare bones" award), and others give reasons (a "reasoned" award).
The arbitration process may be either binding or non-binding. When arbitration is binding, the decision is final, can be enforced by a court, and can only be appealed on very narrow grounds. When arbitration is non-binding, the arbitrator's award is advisory and can be final only if accepted by the parties.