New form approved for fee
disputes with clients
Attorneys who encounter a fee dispute
with a client should be aware that the State Bar has come out with an updated version
of the Notice of Client’s Right to Fee Arbitration form.
Attorneys may begin using the
form now and are required to use it after July 1.
The new form, approved by the State
Bar Board of Trustees on March 7, incorporates a handful of changes, including
clarifying who can request fee arbitration and making it clear that more than
one bar association may have jurisdiction to hear a fee dispute. The new
version also contains the State Bar seal, a change made to ensure lawyers are
providing clients with the correct form.
and Professions Code § 6201(a) requires that lawyers send the notice to their
clients before or at the time of initiating a lawsuit, or other action to collect
fees. Attorneys are legally required to use the State Bar’s form – not their
own version put on their firm’s letterhead.
fee arbitration is designed to reduce the number of fee disputes that end up in
court. The vast majority of fee disputes handled that way are resolved without filing
an action in Superior Court, saving the courts valuable time and money, said
Doug Hull, director of the State Bar’s Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program.
Rae Lamothe, chair of the
Committee on Mandatory Fee Arbitration, said the modifications to the form, though
minor, resolve some issues and concerns that had been brought to the
“There were just things that kept
coming up over and over,” she said.
The most substantive of the
changes is that the form now spells out that a third party who pays attorney
fees on behalf of someone else is also entitled to request fee arbitration,
“It wasn’t as direct as it could
be,” she said.
In addition, the form not only identifies
a local bar association’s fee arbitration program where the request for
arbitration may be filed, but also recommends checking the State Bar’s website to see what other programs might be
available to the client.
Although attorneys may use the
old version of the form until July 1, they are encouraged begin using the new
form and to update any fee arbitration information on their websites. The new
form is available here.