FEE ARBITRATION PROGRAM
of the Beverly Hills Bar Association
Arbitration Rules of
Procedure and Forms
The California State Bar approved Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program of the Beverly Hills Bar Association handles fee and cost disputes, including claims of return of non-earned prepaid fees. Mandatory Fee Arbitration operates under the authority of the California Business & Professions Code sections 6200-6206. 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 the website home page:
www.calbar.ca.gov and click on Attorney Complaints for information and complaint form.
Prior to a California attorney proceeding to court to collect fees and/or costs, he/she must deliver a Notice of Clients Right to Arbitrate form either before filing suit or concurrently with the Summons and Complaint. If you have received a Notice from the attorney claiming unpaid fees,
you will waive your right to compel the attorney to arbitration unless you file a request for arbitration within thirty (30) days of the date you received the Notice. 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 your Right to Arbitrate.
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 your Right to Arbitrate.
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 tries to 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.
Certain requirements and restrictions apply to the actual filing
of a case with the BHBA program.
Requirement: Before an attorney can sue
a client for fees, the Business and Professions Code requires that
the attorney advise the client of his/her right to fee arbitration.
This is done through use of the State Bar
Approved Form, Rev. April 1, 1997 Notice of Client's Right to
Arbitrate. The use of this form is mandatory. Incorporation
of the same or similar language contained in the form on independent
stationary or in the body of a letter from the attorney to the
client is not legally acceptable as a substitute.
Restrictions: Under California law, the
attorney cannot initiate the arbitration or compel the client to
participate under the process. The only way an attorney can compel a
client to arbitrate a fee dispute is if there is a provision
(clause) in the fee agreement/retainer, to which all parties agree,
that any fee disputes will be submitted to arbitration under
Business and Professions Code Sections 6200 through 6206. However,
this clause cannot indicate that the arbitration
will be bindindg. Also, parties cannot agree that they will mediate
a fee dispute, prior to the dispute over legal
fees; the client and attorney can agree to mediation and/or binding
arbitration only after the dispute arises.
The Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program offers fee
arbitration services for all Los Angeles County attorneys and for
other attorneys where a substantial portion (at least fifty percent)
of the case work took place in the County, by virtue of the client’s
location or the attorney’s office.
Fee Arbitration Clause
The dispute resolution provisions of an Attorney-Client Agreement may take various forms. (An example of one possibility is shown below.) Certain governing principles should be considered with regard to a fee arbitration provision:
Before a dispute over legal fees arises the parties may agree, in the Fee Agreement or otherwise, that all fee disputes will be submitted to arbitration under Business and Professions Code Sections 6200 through 6202, but they
cannot agree that the arbitration will be binding.
Before a dispute over legal fees arises, the parties may not agree that they will mediate a fee dispute.
After a dispute over legal fees arises, the client and the attorney
may agree to mediation and/or to binding arbitration.
For any disputes that do not involve fees (e.g. malpractice) the parties may agree at any time, including in the Fee Agreement and without waiting for a dispute to arise, to mediation and/or binding arbitration.
Sample Fee Arbitration Clause
In the event ot a dispute regarding our fees, under California Law (Business and Professions Code Sections 6200-6202), you have the right to request that the dispute be determined first by nonbinding or binding arbitration administered by a State Bar of California approved Fee Arbitration Program, including the Beverly Hills Bar Association
or other local program. Unless we agree to binding arbitration
after a dispute arises, any arbitration award is not binding on our firm or you and, to the extent permitted by law, our firm and you have the right to pursue any other available remedy within 30 days after the mailing of a non-binding arbitration award.
The Beverly Hills Bar Association Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program can assist you with a fee and/or cost dispute with your client. For your convenience, all of the fee arbitration forms and Rules of Procedure you need to begin arbitration with the Beverly Hills Bar Association Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program are available for you to