If you are having a dispute with your attorney over your legal bill, one option is to turn to a fee arbitration program. Most states offer these programs, in which a neutral party will hear evidence from you and your attorney and determine what the proper bill should be. While fee arbitration varies somewhat depending on the state, most programs involve a similar process.
Filing a Claim
In order to initiate fee arbitration, you have to file a claim with your local or state bar association. You generally will need to submit some paperwork with the claim, such as:
- Your fee agreement with the attorney
- Your attorney’s bill
- If applicable, written notice of your right to arbitration
In some states your lawyer’s participation in the process is mandatory, but in many states his or her participation is voluntary. However, most lawyers will agree to take part in fee arbitration in order to quickly and efficiently resolve the dispute.
Scheduling a Hearing
Your lawyer will generally be provided with a copy of your claim, and you will receive a copy of your lawyer’s response. A hearing will then be scheduled, during which you and your lawyer will present testimony to a sole arbitrator. Occasionally, depending on where you are located and the amount in dispute, your hearing may be before a panel of three arbitrators.
Awaiting a Decision
The arbitrator’s decision will usually not be made at the hearing. After a specified amount of time, the arbitrator will determine whether the attorney’s fees were reasonable. You may be awarded a refund of some of attorney’s fees or costs. On the other hand, the arbitrator may decide that no refund is owed, or that you owe money to the attorney.
Contact an Attorney
Since the fee arbitration process varies from state to state, it is a good idea to contact an experienced defective products attorney where you live if you have any concerns about a potential fee dispute. They will be able to advise you of your rights and responsibilities under your state or local fee arbitration system and recommend the best course of action for you.