Programs for fee arbitration may be a quick and affordable alternative to settle billing issues between lawyers and their clients. A neutral third party will examine the invoice in fee arbitration and then decide what a reasonable fee for the attorney’s services is.
This can assist the lawyer, and the client in avoiding a lawsuit, saving them money, time, and hassle. But among the different fee arbitration procedures, three persistent issues frequently surface.
1. Arbitration is Not Typically Required
First, although 42 states, to be exact, provide some form of fee arbitration scheme, just 9 need the attorney’s participation. If an attorney chooses not to take part in the fee arbitration, there are no repercussions in the other states. The client’s sole remaining option to contest the attorney’s bill is to file a lawsuit.
2. Clients Find It Hard to Receive Awards
Second, over half of the state fee arbitration schemes now in place, according to the American Bar Association (ABA), do not help clients collect awards from their attorneys. This implies that a very lousy attorney can decide not to pay even if the arbitrator rules in the client’s favor. Once more, the client’s only option for recovering the disputed sum would be to initiate a lawsuit.
3. Clients Are Not Well Aware of the Option of Fee Arbitration
Despite these potential drawbacks, most attorneys are trustworthy and eager to settle any disagreements with their customers; therefore, fee arbitration is a great approach to settling billing disputes. But this brings up the biggest issue with fee arbitration programs: nobody seems to be aware of them.
The two main causes of this issue are as follows:
- Most states do not mandate that attorneys give their clients written notice of arbitration programs. States that do promote their fee arbitration policies typically market them to attorneys rather than the general public.
- Fee arbitration programs are unfortunately underused because most people are unaware of them.
What Can I Do If My Legal Bills Are Not Acceptable?
One of the most contentious issues between attorneys and their clients is how much the client must pay in legal fees. Frequently, there is merely a misunderstanding of the attorney’s fee schedule. The lawyer might have spelled something incorrectly on the bill in other instances. But regrettably, some attorneys out there just raise their rates, requiring consumers to pay high legal costs.
Many people simply pay the bill due to the high expense, lengthy process, and challenges involved in representing yourself in court. However, arbitrating fees is a quick, inexpensive way to settle a fee disagreement with your lawyer.
What’s Involved in Fee Arbitration?
Most of the time, state or local bar associations oversee fee arbitration systems. In fee arbitration, a neutral third party (the arbitrator) will hear the client and the attorney each present their arguments. The arbitrator will then decide what the appropriate bill should be and either order the client to pay it or the lawyer to lessen or refund the amount.
Fee arbitration is frequently provided for free or at a modest cost, and arbitrated disputes are typically concluded in 2-3 months.
The American Bar Association (ABA) reports that fee arbitration systems are currently available in 42 states. You should get in touch with your state or local bar organization if you’re curious to learn if fee arbitration is offered in your area. Most state bars provide live telephone support for arbitration programs. Additionally, many state bar associations have information about fee arbitration and downloadable forms available on their websites.
Does the Client Need to Receive Written Notice?
If the client and the lawyer cannot agree on the fee, the lawyer sends the client a written notification outlining their right to arbitration. The notice usually contains the following information:
- The client’s right to arbitrate is declared;
- A declaration that the client has a deadline for submitting an arbitration claim;
- A description of how to start a fee arbitration;
- The client must complete a duplicate of the application to begin the arbitration. Typically, this document is known as a “request for arbitration” form.
What is Required to Submit an Arbitration Request?
The client must submit a request for arbitration to the arbitral tribunal with jurisdiction over the issue to proceed with arbitration. The attorney must receive a copy of the request.
In several states, the customer must present supporting documentation with the request. The following items may be included in this documentation:
- A copy of the fee agreement between the client and the lawyer.
- Copies of all legal bills that the lawyer has provided to the client.
- Copies of receipts and canceled checks.
- Copies of the dispute’s papers and correspondence.
An attorney may reply to the arbitration request under some state arbitration rules. An attorney’s statement outlining where the parties agree and differ may be included in the answer. The response could also include a legal argument for why the price is reasonable, as stated by the attorney. The client must receive whatever response the lawyer offers.
During this phase, the client is also expected to pay any fees associated with the arbitration.
In What Ways are Arbitrators Chosen?
The body in charge of the arbitration reviews the submissions once the attorney and client have filed theirs. Next, the arbiter is chosen. The arbitrator(s)’ names are disclosed to the attorney and client so that they may ask for their removal if they feel the arbitrator is prejudiced.
What Information is Available About the Hearing?
After being chosen, the arbitrator sets the day, time, and location of the hearing. The hearing could occur in front of a panel of arbitrators, depending on the nature and scope of the dispute. Typically, there are three arbitrators on a panel. Normally, each party is permitted to have its own legal counsel.
The arbitrator holds the hearing at the designated time and location. The client and the attorney can both testify and present written proof. In most cases, the arbitrator permits the opposite side to submit their argument if one side does not show up for the hearing. In these situations, the arbitrator normally bases their decision on all the information at their disposal.
How are Disagreements Settled?
The arbitrator examines the evidence after the hearing is over. The quantity and intricacy of the evidence will determine how quickly a judgment is rendered. Most states mandate that following the conclusion of the hearing, a written decision must be issued (e.g., thirty days).
The basis for the decision is laid out in the written decision that was sent to the parties.
Generally, the written judgment is conclusive and enforceable, and there are few grounds for appeal. Generally, appeals can be undertaken by bringing a lawsuit to the proper court within the decision’s time frame.
What Will Occur if the Attorney Refuses to Participate in the Arbitration?
The client usually has to turn to bring a lawsuit in jurisdictions with an arbitration program that do not require the attorney’s presence. This is so that attorneys who choose not to engage will not be penalized by states that do not need their involvement. Additionally, some laws forbid a client from receiving an arbitration award unless all parties were initially involved in the arbitration.
Should I Get in Touch with a Lawyer?
Arbitration is a quick and efficient technique to resolve a disagreement, notwithstanding these issues. Contacting your liability attorney personally should be your first course of action if you have any questions about the cost of legal representation.
If that does address the problem, you should then speak with a lawyer to determine whether arbitration is the appropriate course of action and to assist you in picking an arbitrator.