The BHBA Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program handles fee and cost disputes, including claims for return of non-earned, prepaid fees.
In order to initiate and undergo Mandatory Fee Arbitration, both the attorney and the client must carefully follow established procedures and timelines. Specific notices, forms, and responses must be filed and/or sent to the opposing party.
The Beverly Hills Bar Association’s Mandatory Fee Arbitration operates under the authority of the California Business & Professions Code sections 6200-6206.
This service only covers matters related to fees. Complaints against attorneys for breach of professional ethics are handled by the Office of Trial Counsel of the State Bar. To request the proper forms to make such a complaint, call (800) 843-9053 or go to www.calbar.ca.gov and click on Attorney Complaints.
The information below outlines the process, provides downloadable forms, and explains how clients can get started using the BHBA’s Mandatory Fee Arbitration service.
I received a notice from my attorney claiming unpaid fees. What do I do?
- Prior to a California attorney proceeding to court to collect fees and/or costs, the attorney must deliver a “Notice of Client’s Right to Arbitrate” form either before filing suit or concurrently with the Summons and Complaint.
- If you received a Notice, you must file a request for arbitration within thirty (30) days of the date you received the notice using the proper form (Form D – Client’s Request for Arbitration of a Fee Dispute) and paying the appropriate filing fee or you will waive your right to compel the attorney to arbitration. (See Fee Arbitration Rules of Procedure and Forms)
I want to initiate arbitration. What do I do?
- You must file your request for arbitration using the proper form (Form D – Client’s Request for Arbitration of a Fee Dispute) and paying the appropriate filing fee. (See Fee Arbitration Rules of Procedure and Forms)
- You cannot request or maintain arbitration if you answer a lawsuit brought by the attorney claiming fees, or file an action against the attorney for malpractice or damages after receiving Notice of Client’s to Arbitration.
What happens after I submit my request for arbitration?
- An impartial arbitration panel will be appointed upon completion of a conflict check. Under the Rules, the parties may have a one or three person panel of experienced arbitrators for their hearing, depending on the dollar amount in dispute: one under $15,000 and three over $15,000. Wherever possible, the BHBA will provide arbitrators with experience in the area of practice relevant to the case.
- Each side is given the opportunity to present their case at the scheduled hearing with the final result decided by the arbitrator(s) and written in the form of an award.
- The arbitration award is advisory unless both you and the attorney agree to make the award binding. An advisory award means that if either party is not satisfied with the arbitration decision, that party has the right to have a court decide the matter; a binding award means that the arbitration decision is final. An advisory award automatically becomes binding thirty (30) days after the award is mailed, unless either party requests a court trial after arbitration.
What Forms Do I Need to Begin?
Form D - Client's Request To Arbitrate A Fee Dispute
Form C - Notice That Action Is Stayed Pending Outcome Of Mandatory Fee Arbitration (Only if lawsuit also filed
Other Forms That Are Available
Form A - Request For Hearing By State Bar
Form G - Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program Credit Card Form
Form J - Rights After Arbitration
Form K – Mediation Rules