Queen's University IRC

Labour Arbitration Skills

Learning the Advocate’s Art and Science of Building and Presenting Winning Arbitration Cases




Effective advocacy before an arbitrator requires the same blend of skills, and techniques as advocacy before a judge in a courtroom. It requires careful and extensive preparation before the hearing, concise opening statements, organized and efficient presentation of evidence, and persuasive argument. Leading advocates and arbitrators will coach you through the preparation and presentation of a challenging arbitration case.


Please contact Queen’s IRC at 1-888-858-7838 or email IRC@QueensU.ca for more information.





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In this dynamic program, you will build presentation and advocacy skills and get immediate feedback from an experienced arbitrator.

a) The First Principles of Arbitration

To ensure you have a solid foundation for the coming week, the opening session offers a picture of the environment in which an arbitrator must operate.

By the end of this session, you will have a foundation in:

  • The role and powers of the arbitrator
  • The purpose of arbitration
  • Governing legislation
  • Development of arbitral jurisprudence
  • The evolution of doctrine

b) Introduction to the Arbitration Hearing

To give a sense of the “look and feel” of the typical labour arbitration hearing, we offer this overview of the process and normal procedures to follow. At the same time, you get a chance to pick up a few pointers on typical presentation pitfalls to avoid.

c) Preparing for the Hearing

Do you know the types of evidence that arbitrators require? What types of evidence will be excluded? What are the rules governing hearsay? We show you how to get essential facts into the evidentiary record, and how to assess your opponent’s theory of the case.

Learn the following eight steps of foolproof case prepping:

  • Learn the facts
  • Develop your theory
  • Consider precedents
  • Take stock of possible flaws or amendments
  • Consider preliminaries
  • Narrow your focus
  • Prepare your witnesses
  • Prepare opening/cross/closing

d) Becoming a Research Hound

Legal research can be costly in terms of time and money. We offer a series of questions to help shape a research plan, introduce you to a basic research model, and give you tips and resources to get you going in the right direction.

e) Arbitration and Human Rights

Delve deeper into the issues surrounding arbitration and human rights, such as sexual harassment and discrimination against people with disabilities. Take away an invaluable resource booklet on “the duty to accommodate at arbitration.”

f) Mastering the Hearing

Learn how to prepare your witnesses and evidence. Practice what you have learned in a role play, and get a live demonstration of how to qualify an expert witness. Find out how to order your evidence and how to hold the attention of the arbitrator. We offer techniques on questioning and presenting exhibits that are highly effective.

Learn more about:

  • Delivering effective opening and closing statements
  • Examining, cross-examining, and reexamining witnesses
  • Understanding key aspects of the rules of evidence
  • Objecting at the right time and in the right way

g) Mock Arbitration

Here is your once-in-a-lifetime chance to practice your new advocacy skills and get expert coaching along the way. With a partner, research your case and prepare an opening statement, examination-in-chief, cross examination, and closing argument. Deliver your case before an experienced arbitrator.

h) Awards and Debriefing

In the final session, assemble with your colleagues to hear the arbitrators’ awards and share impressions of the mock hearing. How did you fare? Did you encounter any surprises?


Deborah Leighton

Lead Facilitator

Craig Flood


Macey Nielissen


Macey Nielissen

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Professor Deborah Leighton

Professor Deborah Leighton is a member of the Employment Relations Program in the Faculty of Arts and Science, at Queen’s University, teaching in the Master of Industrial Relations program since 1994. She has been a labour mediator and arbitrator since 1992 and is a named arbitrator for many parties including Air Canada and ACPA, University of Toronto and CUPE, and the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT-Academic) and OPSEU.

In addition to her private practice as a mediator and arbitrator, Deborah has acted in these roles for a number of public boards. She is a listed arbitrator at the Ontario Crown Employees’ Grievance Settlement Board (since 1996). She served as a Vice-Chair, at the Ontario Public Service Grievance Board from 1992 to 2017. She served two terms as an Adjudicator, for the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal between 1992 and 1998.

Deborah’s education includes a BA in Law from Oxford University, and an LLM from the University of Texas at Austin.

Craig Flood

Craig Flood practises in the area of labour law with a special expertise in the area of workplace safety and insurance. In June 2016, he assumed the role of Managing Partner of Koskie Minsky LLP, and he is a long-time member of the Executive Committee.

Craig is a proud graduate of Queen’s University (B.A. Honours, 1982) and the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. (LLB, 1986). He was admitted as a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1988.

Craig represents trade unions and employees in the acquisition and preservation of bargaining rights, unfair labour practice complaints, discipline and discharge, occupational health and safety, essential services, and grievance arbitration. He has appeared before various tribunals, such as the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Canada Industrial Relations Board, the Crown Employees’ Grievance Settlement Board and the College of Nurses of Ontario. He has acted as counsel in judicial review matters, including before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Craig represents workers throughout the provincial workers’ compensation system, including the Workplace Safety & Insurance Appeals Tribunal.

Craig is past Chair of the Administrative Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association and has acted as counsel to the Canadian Bar Association – Ontario before the Court of Appeal for Ontario. He is a regular commentator and writer on labour and administrative law matters, and frequently speaks on workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, labour law and administrative law issues before a wide range of audiences. He coordinates the Koskie Minsky University Lecture in Labour Law at the University of Western Ontario and is actively involved with the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers.