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.
What is fee dispute arbitration?
The Board of Governors of the State Bar of Nevada has appointed a Fee Dispute Arbitration Committee to assist clients and their attorneys in settling fee disputes.
The committee has authority to decide any disagreement between a client and attorney concerning the fee paid, charged, or claimed for legal services provided by an attorney licensed to practice in Nevada, or licensed in another state and practicing in this state, where there is an expressed or implied contract establishing an attorney-client relationship.
The committee does not have jurisdiction in the following matters:
- Disputes over which a court has fixed the fee.
- Disputes over which the court has already decided the fees.
- Claims against the attorney for damages or based upon alleged malpractice or professional misconduct.
- Disputes for less than $250 and more than $50,000.
Who should file a fee dispute?
It is best if an attorney and client can come to an agreement by taking time to communicate. Often, a meeting between the attorney and client — during which concerns are openly discussed — can resolve the problem. However, if all efforts at agreement have failed, any attorney or client may wish to take advantage of this service.
How do I file a fee dispute?
You may file a fee dispute by downloading and completing a “Petitioner’s Agreement for Arbitration of Fee Dispute” form from our website at https://nvbar.org/disputing-a-lawyers-fee/.
Return the form along with relevant documentation to support your claim to the Fee Dispute Department in the state bar’s Las Vegas office or electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org (all pages and documentation must be provided in PDF format).
What happens next?
Upon receipt of the completed Petitioner’s Agreement, the responding party (“Respondent”) is sent a copy and asked to reply. The Respondent may sign a binding arbitration agreement or provide a written response (non-binding). In most instances, the matter will proceed to mediation. A mediator will attempt to resolve the fee dispute by communicating with both parties and finding a mutually acceptable resolution.
If mediation is unsuccessful, and both parties have agreed to binding arbitration, the matter will be forwarded to an arbitrator. In this instance, the arbitrator (or arbitration panel, depending on the amount in dispute) will schedule and provide notice of a hearing and the arbitrator will decide if fees are owed. If the parties have not agreed to binding arbitration, the matter will be closed after the mediation has concluded.
What happens if the attorney has filed suit against me already?
If a complaint and/or motion to determine the fee has already been filed with a court of competent jurisdiction, the Fee Dispute Committee cannot open a claim unless directed to do so by the court.
Is there a charge for the fee dispute arbitration service?
No. The Fee Dispute Committee arbitrators and mediators volunteer their time to resolve fee dispute issues and there is no charge to either party to use the program.
For more information about disputing a lawyer’s fee, contact Cathi Britz, Client Protection Coordinator at email@example.com.