The State Bar of Nevada’s Fee Dispute Arbitration Program is an informal, free program designed to resolve fee disputes of $250 or more between attorneys and their clients. The program is a great resource for clients and their attorneys to resolve an issue of fees in a non-adversarial proceeding. Either party to a fee dispute – the client or the attorney – may file a fee dispute if other efforts to communicate and resolve the difference do not work.
Fee Dispute Committee members volunteer as impartial mediators and arbitrators and determine what the reasonable fees should be for the legal services performed. Mediation often works to settle the dispute quickly and unless there is a contractual obligation between the lawyer and client to arbitrate a dispute, all fee dispute claims are first assigned to a mediator.
The Fee Dispute Program is voluntary, and with few exceptions, there is no obligation for either party to participate. However, most lawyers and clients have found the Program to be useful and participate in good faith.
How does mediation differ from arbitration?
If the parties agree to mediation, the Committee will assign a skilled arbitrator to bring everyone together and find a compromise that everyone agrees to. This is a good first step at resolving the issue before arbitration. If the mediation does not work, the parties have the option of moving forward with arbitration. Mediators can be attorneys or lay members with experience serving in that capacity.
Who serves as the arbitrators?
If a single arbitrator is appointed hear the matter (dispute of $10,000 or less), that arbitrator will be an attorney. If a three member arbitration panel is appointed (dispute of $10,000 or more), then at least one member will be an attorney. The other two panel members may be non-attorneys.
What if the attorney has filed suit against me already?
A fee dispute may be submitted up until the time a judge makes a decision on the matter. If you are asked to appear in court before your fee dispute has finished, you may advise the judge that you have submitted a fee dispute to the State Bar of Nevada and ask the judge to delay the matter until it has been arbitrated. However, if the judge does not grant your request and makes a decision, the Fee Dispute Committee cannot proceed with arbitration.
For more information about disputing a lawyer’s fee, contact Cathi Britz, Client Protection Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.