My former atty quit leaving a huge unpaid bill for services that ended up not being used as a result. Can I arbitrate fees?

Asked over 1 year ago - Hermosa Beach, CA

My atty performed work prepping for my SOC hearing , then quit right beforehand . The paperwork I was billed for which left an open balance , ended up in a box . My follow up atty said most of it was useless in my SOC and he did not need any of it . What are my odds in winning fee arbitration as a result , for the useless docs , subpoenaed docs , and labor of these docs ? Also , what are my odds a getting a refund for the cost of having a new follow up atty spend two days studying the box of paperwork my first atty left behind , just two weeks prior to my hearing date ? The follow up atty charged a whopping $ 5550 for himself to review these two boxes of docs and have me come into his office to meet and catch him up on prepping for my SOC ( custody / child support paternity . . no divorce or assets involved

Additional information

Oops, I meant "OSC" not "SOC".

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Adrienne Patricia Allen

    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Yes, you should go to a fee arbitration through the state bar against the first attorney. Good luck.

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. The above answer is for general... more
  2. Isileli Tupou Manaia Mataele

    Contributor Level 19

    Answered . Both attorneys seem a little much for a simple hearing but depending on how complex the facts are it may be reasonable. It is impossible to know without knowing the facts and what was billed.

    This is not a comprehensive answer and it is impossible to provide a meaningful response without a consultation.... more
  3. Michael Raymond Daymude


    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . "My former atty quit leaving a huge unpaid bill for services that ended up not being used as a result. Can I arbitrate fees?" -- Yes, your attorney must submit to non-binding fee arbitration if you timely request it. You may also consider asking your attorney to reduce his fees in return for immediate payment of the agreed sum. Good luck.

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. Answers provided by me are for... more
  4. Joel R. Levine

    Contributor Level 6

    Answered . You didn't mention the basis for arbitrating which usually is a provision in the engagement letter between attorney and client or a right under state law or bar practice to have a neutral panel or arbitrator (often in a grievance procedure) resolve your issues. As an arbitrator, I'd give much weight to what you are presenting (assume all is true and the other side doesn't convincingly refute same). I don't believe an attorney who prepares useless documents and fails to follow through with representing the client, without any basis for behaving that way (as for example, non payment of agreed fees, the discovery that the client has misrepresented a situation, etc.) should be entitled to compensation for that work. Other arbitrators might disagree, but I believe most would agree. Less likely would be your chances of recovering for your second attorney because—just think about it—that would mean you never would pay even once for the work. Unless you can demonstrate that the first attorney caused you to pay more than one would normally pay or that he/she is somehow responsible for an augmented portion of your legal fee, I don't think the odds on that portion of you claim are great—although other arbitrators might disagree. I know $5550 seems high, but I wonder why you didn't get some agreement in advance on what the range of fees would be and also one can't evaluate all the time your second attorney had to put in to prepare and present your case. Hope this helps. Best of luck.

    I am an arbitrator and this is not legal advice. I'm licensed in Florida and NY and my response has nothing to do... more

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