Lawyers and Legal Fees - Fee Disputes
Clients should always receive the basis or rate of the fee in writing. If the fee agreement is contingent on the outcome of a matter or if fees are shared between lawyers, the client must also sign the agreement. A written fee agreement is not required for regularly represented clients if the hourly rate will be the same; however, a lawyer must communicate fee changes in writing. If the lawyer states in the agreement that a fee, a retainer, or other money collected from a client is "earned upon receipt," "nonrefundable," or uses similar language, the lawyer must also advise the client in writing that the client can always fire the lawyer and all or part of the fee may still be refundable.
Information About Fee Disputes
If you are disputing the amount of fees charged by your lawyer, the State Bar's Fee Arbitration Program may be available to you. This is a free, voluntary program where an arbitrator is assigned to determine what the reasonable fees should be for the legal services that were performed. The amount in dispute must be $500 or more. If both the client and lawyer agree to arbitrate, a binding award is issued. Clients do not need to hire a lawyer to represent them in a Fee Arbitration. Fee Arbitration is only available if there is no litigation pending to resolve the fee dispute. If you would like more information about this program, please call the Fee Arbitration Program at 602.340.7379. Or to download the Rules and forms, click here.