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

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

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

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Attorney answers 4


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.

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$29K for the first atty. $32K for the second.



I am asking the first atty be responsible for the cost of the second atty's fee to familiarize himself with the first atty's paperwork as a direct result of the first atty quitting abruptly before trial without cause.


"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.

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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 information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case. No attorney-client relationship shall be created through the use reading of this response on Avvo. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this response.


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 with Ca. law, but is rather just a general approach to your problem. It's impossible to judge the odds of any outcome without a clear understanding of both parties' positions and even then no one can predict results for certain.

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