I retained a laywer on Nov 1 with $2500 for a divorce case. During 3 mo, I did not recv a bill for any services from Nov 1-Jan 30. On Jan 30 I was billed for $10K. The bill showed that my retainer was used up on Nov 3. The contract specifically states that she was supposed to notify me when the retainer was used and request $1000 at that time. It also states that I will be billed monthly. I expected this would happen. She states that I should have known of the billing all along and kept track on my own and should not be in shock after only 90 days that the bill is $12,300K. I sent her a letter and payment for the first 30 days explaining her contract obligations to me. She responded that I still owe the full amount or would file arbitration at my expense & 10% int.
If you have a fee dispute with your former attorney, you have the right to fee arbitration or fee mediation with your local bar association. You can represent yourself in such fee arbitration (or mediation).
In California, when a client has a fee dispute with an attorney, clients should know that under California Business and Professions Code sections 6200-6206, clients have the right to request mandatory arbitration to dispute fees and costs charged by an attorney for professional services.
Most local bar associations have a fee dispute resolution program. This is an informal process allows parties to take oaths, give testimony, present and cross-examine witnesses and produce documentation that the parties feel substantiate his or her position concerning the fees and costs.
In addition to arbitration, parties may agree to submit the fee dispute to mediation. The process is voluntary, so each party must agree in writing before the session proceeds.
Unless the client has agreed in writing to arbitration of all disputes concerning fees, costs, or both, arbitration shall be voluntary for a client and mandatory for an attorney if commenced by a client
Frank W. Chen is licensed to practice law in the State of California only. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
Attorneys are required to submit any payment dispute to mandatory fee arbitration. There is usually no cost for that, or if there is, it is minimal.
You have no obligation to go to fee arbitration. But if the attorney offers it to you, and you do not agree, then the attorney will be able to bring a small claims or superior court case against you.
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