Law Division Mandatory Arbitration

Overview of Law Division Mandatory Arbitration 

The Law Division Mandatory Arbitration program is an alternative dispute resolution process for civil suits seeking money damages, such as small business contract disputes, collections cases or personal injury actions. The process is less formal and less time-consuming than a jury trial and is conducted by a sole arbitrator who hears the case and evidence. The arbitrator is a licensed Illinois attorney who has at least seven years of experience, maintains a practice that is focused on commercial or personal injury litigation and is certified by the Circuit Court of Cook County as having successfully completed a certified course in arbitration. 

Certain civil cases pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County must complete the mandatory arbitration process. Your case is being referred for a Law Division mandatory arbitration proceeding because a judge has reviewed the case file, met with all parties on a case management or status date and determined your case is amenable to the process. Generally, arbitration hearings lead to quicker and less costly resolutions to disputes than waiting for a traditional trial. 

All parties should review the rules governing the Law Division mandatory arbitration process, Circuit Court Rule 25. Please note that the Law Division Arbitration program does have different rules and requirements than Municipal Division arbitration cases so it’s very important to know which program your case is assigned to and review the appropriate rules and materials. 

Law Division Contacts and Location

All Law Division mandatory arbitration hearings are held at the Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Center.

Cook County Program Administrator – Kimberly Atz O’Brien (
Cook County Program Deputy Administrator – Emelda Wilkins (
Arbitration Supervisor: LaKheem Trotter (



Law Division Mandatory Arbitration FAQs

    Law Division cases that fall under local Circuit Court Rule 25.2 or 25.3 are eligible to be referred to the Law Division Mandatory Arbitration Program by their assigned Judge.  Actual arbitration hearing dates are assigned by a computer program maintained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court and the date is set based on the date the Judge enters the referral order, which will indicate if the hearing will be held on a regular or expedited schedule.  Regularly scheduled hearing dates are at least 120 days after the date of referral and expedited hearing dates are at least 60 days after the date of referral.

    Notices for arbitration hearings are sent to all attorneys of record according to appearances on file with the Office of the Circuit Clerk of Cook County.  The Clerk will send notice through USPS or by email, however you have selected to receive official court notices for the hearing. Please note that it is important to keep your firm's attorney code information up to date with the Office of the Circuit Clerk which sends arbitration notices to the address or email your firm has listed with the Clerk.

    Arbitration hearing dates and times may only be continued by a properly executed order of court.  Only the Supervising Judge of Law Division Arbitration can continue a set arbitration hearing date.  Click here to see the Supervising Judge’s standing order (I have this on PDF). Parties are responsible for delivering a copy of all orders that impact a set arbtriation hearing date to both the Arbitration Center as well as to the assigned arbitrator for your case.  Please note that arbitrators are not allowed to grant continuance motions and no arbitration staff can change a date administratively.

    Cases may only be removed from the arbitration calendar by presenting a properly executed dismissal order to either your assigned Judge or to the Supervising Judge for Law Division Mandatory Arbitration. You must do this before the time your hearing is scheduled to begin, have it entered with the court and deliver it to the arbitration staff and your assigned arbitrator before the time of your hearing. Please note that arbitrators are not allowed to grant motions to dismiss cases.  All of these steps must be completed before the hearing in order for your case to be removed from the arbitration calendar.

    Law Division arbitration hearings are held at the Arbitration Center, which is located at 222 North LaSalle Street, 13th Floor, Chicago, Illinois, 60601.  The arbitration notice sent by the Clerk’s Office will show the location of your arbitration hearing as well as the date and time of your case.  Please note on the day of your hearing you must check in with the arbitration staff in the correct arbitration location; they will direct you to the appropriate hearing room.  Arbitration hearings begin on time.  Although a 15-minute grace period is given to accommodate attorneys or litigants who may be running late, these are formal court hearings and professionalism dictates that attorneys should ensure that they arrive in a timely manner.  Circuit Court Rule 25.12 mandates that attorneys and litigants must participate in these hearings in good faith and arriving late in some instances can jeopardize this finding.

    Circuit Court Rule 25.9 (j) allows for the use of court provided interpreters at Law Division Mandatory Arbitration hearings.  The rule mandates 14 day written notice of the need for an interpreter but it’s important to note that the Cook County Circuit Court has limited court interpreters available so the more notice you provide the better.  IMPORTANT: You should give the name of who needs the interpreter, a short summary of the case plus a firm time estimate when making your request.  This helps the Office of Interpreter Services know if they can accommodate your request or not. 

    Law Division Mandatory Arbitration hearings are heard by a sole arbitrator who has been appointed in advance.  The court maintains a list of arbitrators who are assigned to cases randomly by a computer program.  Circuit Court Rule 25.16 lists the requirements for attorneys who wish to serve as arbitrators and Rule 25.17 mandates that a Selection Committee review all candidates’ initial application as well as yearly performance reviews for continued inclusion on the arbitrator list.  Assigned arbitrators will conduct a conflicts check to see if any conflicts exist that would mandate they withdraw from any case if there are  grounds for disqualification found in the Illinois Code of Judicial Conduct. Circuit Court Rule 25.6 (c) notes that parties may not move to substitute an arbitrator without cause.  Any such motions would be presented to the Supervising Judge for Law Division Arbitration. 

    IMPORTANT:  An assigned arbitrator will send their conflicts form back to all parties listed on the case and disclosure any information needed. If disclosures are made, email everyone back to discuss any potential issues before getting the Judge involved, because arbitration is a less formal process, generally issues can be worked out in advance or if there are substantial issues, arbitrators generally recuse themselves before putting parties in a situation of having to present a motion to remove.  Communication is key here.

    Arbitration staff will send an email to all parties of record a couple of months before the hearing with the name of your arbitrator. Once an assigned arbitrator has accepted the assignment, they will send back a completed conflicts check for your records.  It’s important to make a note of the name of your assigned arbitrator and their contact details so you have it later when needed for submitted documents before your hearing date and for any other communications regarding motions or settlements.  IMPORTANT: It’s good practice to ensure that assistants and paralegals also have the name of the arbitrator and the contact information since they send emails much of the time.  Anytime you contact the court to present a motion to continue, dismiss or strike the arbitration hearing, you should include the arbitration center and your arbitrator so they will have a heads up that something may be changing about your hearing date. 

    Attorneys will send electronic copies of their pre-hearing submissions directly to the arbitrator via email, Dropbox, Share file or other electronic means. A good practice is to ask arbitrators if they also prefer hard copies of anything, especially if there are voluminous documents or copy legibility is an issue. Each arbitrator handles this a little differently, just make sure to always included all parties, the arbitration center and the arbitrator on all communications so you aren’t communicating with the arbitrator ex parte.

    Circuit Court Rule 25.9(h) states that no telephonic appearances of parties or attorneys will be allowed without good cause.  All motions should be presented before the Supervising Judge of the Law Division Arbitration Program. If the Judge grants your motion, this means that clients or witnesses can testify remotely, it does not mean that attorneys do not need to appear.  Attorneys need to appear in person and bring whatever device needed to effectuate their client’s remote testimony (i.e. cell phones, tablets or laptops).  We have Wi-Fi at the Arbitration Center and this information is posted at the front desk.

    Circuit Court Rule 25.10 gives the arbitrator two business days to think about their decision and issue their award.  Once the award is entered and processed staff from the Arbitration Center will send you the award by email.  It’s vital for you to ensure that the Arbitration Center knows the emails of attorneys and law firms on the case to ensure that everyone gets the award in a timely manner.   

    Circuit Court Rule 25.9(k) allows parties to submit a short summary of the legal fees incurred in connection with the arbitration. Parties should give these statements to the arbitrator at the end of the hearing either by hard copy or by email by the end of the business day of the hearing.  If you do not submit the fee statements they will be waived. Under Circuit Court Rule 25.11(d) if a rejecting party does not obtain a better result at trial, the rejecting party may have to pay the other party’s reasonable attorneys fees per the Rule 25.9(k) summaries that were submitted at the end of the arbitration hearing.  Reasonable attorneys’ fees will be determined by the Supervising Judge for Law Division Arbitration by motion.

    Notices of rejection must be filed with the Office of the Circuit Clerk within 14 days of the entry of an arbitration award per Circuit Court Rule 25.11. The award is entered on the day it’s emailed to you from the Arbitration Center, not necessarily from the date of the hearing unless that is also the date you receive the award.  The fee associated with filing a notice of rejection is $750.00 by Circuit Court Rule 25.11(a) and fees must be paid at the time of filing the notice of rejection. IMPORTANT:  Law Division rejection forms differ from the Municipal Division rejection forms so please ensure you use the proper form from the Clerk’s Office website.