One of the biggest areas of dispute between lawyers and their clients involves how much the client has to pay in legal fees. Oftentimes, there is simply a miscommunication regarding the attorney’s fee structure. Other times, the attorney might have made a mistake on the bill. Unfortunately, however, there are a few lawyers out there who simply inflate their prices, forcing clients to pay unreasonably expensive legal fees.
Due to the high cost, copious amounts of time required, and the difficulty associated with taking your attorney to court, many people end up simply paying the bill. However, there is an easy, low cost method to resolve a fee dispute with your attorney: Fee Arbitration.
Fee arbitration programs are generally run by state or local bar associations. In fee arbitration, an independent third party (the arbitrator) will hear both the attorney and the client explain their sides of the story. The arbitrator will then determine what the proper bill should be, and either direct the client to pay the bill or have the attorney refund or lower the cost of the bill.
Fee arbitration is usually free or provided at a low cost, and cases that undergo arbitration can usually be resolved within 2-3 months.
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), 42 states currently offer fee arbitration programs. If you are interested in finding out whether fee arbitration is available in your area, you should contact your state or local bar association. Most state bars offer live assistance regarding arbitration programs via telephone. Also, many state bar association include fee arbitration information on their websites, as well as downloadable forms to get the process started.
Although fee arbitration is a low cost alternative to suing your attorney, there are several problems associated with fee arbitration. As such, depending on your situation, especially if there has been legal malpractice, it might be best to consult with a separate attorney if you are in the middle of a fee dispute with your attorney. An attorney can advise you on whether or not the fee is unreasonably high and can help you bring your former attorney to court in order to recover whatever money you may have already paid.