ACMAS Attorney-Client and Attorney-Attorney Fee Disputes Are Now Being Arbitrated and Mediated Using Zoom

By Lee L. Blackman, LACBA Member and ACMAS Vice Chair
August 2020

 

In recognition of the effect that Covid-19 has had on in-person arbitration and mediation proceedings, the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Attorney Client Mediation and Arbitration Services Program is moving forward with fee dispute arbitrations and mediations using Zoom.

The ACMAS Program’s response to Covid-19 began with the adoption of a May 2020 Opinion Re Videoconferencing confirming that existing ACMAS Rules permit arbitrations and mediations using Zoom and comparable remote videoconferencing and audioconferencing platforms because these platforms allow proceedings to be conducted in a secure, confidential, fair, speedy, economical, and impartial manner. Emergency Rules permitting the filing and service of pleadings via email were also adopted.

Since May, the ACMAS Program has written detailed guidelines for arbitrators and mediators using Zoom or other platforms and prepared a one-hour webinar explaining both the essential requirements and practical guidance for conducting videoconference proceedings.  This guidance covers account requirements; scheduling sessions and inviting participants; essential settings; important tools such as screen sharing, use of the waiting room, and creating and managing breakout rooms. Also included are model communications to parties and procedures to help parties participate effectively in videoconference sessions.

To date many ACMAS arbitrators and mediators have been certified to conduct videoconference proceedings, and many arbitrations and mediations, including multiparty and document-intensive matters, have been conducted effectively, efficiently, and safely.

While our Courts have undertaken herculean efforts to make judicial processes accessible despite the Covid-19 environment, it remains the case that alternative methods for resolving attorney-client and attorney-attorney fee disputes are urgently needed.  The ACMAS commitment to training its arbitration and mediation panel members to conduct online arbitrations and mediations has only enhanced ACMAS’s ability to resolve the sorts of attorney fee disputes subject to its jurisdiction expeditiously, fairly, effectively, and confidentially despite the pandemic.

Our experience now teaches us that the effective use of Zoom is likely to outlast the virus because using remote platforms has substantial efficiency benefits that go well beyond simply assuring safe sessions.

A client may initiate a mandatory arbitration proceeding by completing of the “Client’s Petition for Arbitration” and paying the filing fee. Forms are also available for attorney-attorney and attorney-client fee disputes. The forms are accessible on the ACMAS webpage under “Other Forms and Documents” located near the bottom of the page. Here is a link to the ACMAS page: https://www.lacba.org/need-legal-help/attorney-client-mediation-arbitration-service-clients.

As an alternative, the client can submit the request for arbitration online by using the following link: https://www.lacba.org/need-legal-help/attorney-client-mediation-arbitration-service-clients/acmas-application.

If you have additional questions about arbitration and mediation sessions conducted using Zoom, about Zoom training, or becoming an arbitrator or mediator with ACMAS, please contact the program’s office by calling (213) 896-6426.