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B&P §6200: Fee Dispute Notice Obligations

The California Business and Professions Code (B&P) Section 6200 requires members of the State Bar of California who have offices in California to arbitrate disputes with their clients if the dispute concerns fees, costs or both. Arbitration of attorney-client fee disputes is voluntary for the client but mandatory for the attorney if the client commences arbitration. The subject matter of the arbitration must be limited to issues of attorney fees and costs and the arbitrator may not issue an award based upon any claims for affirmative relief against the attorney for damages or for claims based on alleged malpractice or professional misconduct.

B&P Section 6201 further requires that an attorney shall forward a written notice to the client of the client's right to arbitrate prior to or at the commencement of any proceeding or service of summons or claim against the client. Section 6201 (a) provides that failure to give such written notice shall be a ground for the dismissal of the action or other proceeding. We urge all members of the Bar to review Sections 6200 through 6206 of the B&P.

It is especially important to review Section 6201. Section 6201 requires that your written notice to the client of the client's right to arbitrate must be in the approved form that the State Bar requires. The State Bar Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee has interpreted this language strictly to mean that the prescribed form may not be altered in any manner except for your chosen designation of the named local bar association fee-dispute program.

While you may designate any local State Bar-approved fee-dispute program in the form, we have listed our program for your convenience. Attached therefore is an approved and current copy of the State Bar Notice of Client's Right to Arbitration form with the name and contact information of the Los Angeles County Bar Association fee-dispute program listed. The LACBA's Attorney-Client Mediation & Arbitration Services program is administered through their dispute resolution arm, Dispute Resolution Services, Inc (DRS). DRS fee-arbitrators serve pro bono.

The Los Angeles County Bar Association's Attorney-Client program is the largest in the state and has a staff of four to serve your needs. The program offers an optional and voluntary mediation service that offers qualified fee-dispute mediators who will provide up to three hours of pro bono service to the parties for their fee-arbitration cases on file with DRS. Mediation services are also available at modest cost for attorney-client disputes of all kinds -- fee disputes that have not yet been filed with the Attorney-Client Mediation & Arbitration Services program or attorney-client disputes such as malpractice claims that fall outside the scope and jurisdiction of B&P 6200.

For further information on use of the Notice of Client's Right to Arbitration form, or the attorney-client arbitration and mediation services available through the Los Angeles County Bar, please fax your request to Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Services (ACMAS) at (213) 833-6718 or phone the ACMAS Attorney-Client call-in line at (213) 896-6426 during the hours of 1 PM to 4 PM.