Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Service
Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Service
Under 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. Trained volunteers administer mediation and arbitration services for the Los Angeles County Bar Association's program, which is the largest in the state. The 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. All mediators must meet criteria set by the Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Service Executive Committee and serve pro bono for the first three hours of service. If the parties see progress and desire to continue with mediation after the first three hours, they agree in advance to share the mediator's modest hourly rate that is no more than $150 under the fee mediation rules.
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.
ACMAS will handle fee disputes requested by attorneys against clients, attorneys, and in certain cases, insurance companies. These arbitrations initiated by attorneys are voluntary, which means that all parties must agree in writing to participate in the arbitration process.
For more information, contact Sharron McLawyer, Director of Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Service at (213) 896-6541.
Attorney-Client Arbitration Program
Parties may submit a matter to arbitration after exhaustion of their rights under Business and Professions Code 6200-6206 if they previously agreed in writing to submit all disputes regarding fees, costs or both to arbitration before the Los Angeles County Bar Association when they entered the attorney client relationship. The Attorney Client Arbitration Program (ACAP) is a confidential, affordable alternative to the court system. The arbitrators are experienced in handling and resolving fee disputes, as they must meet specific requirements that include the handling of cases submitted to mandatory arbitration. The parties choose the arbitrator in this process and the proceeding will take place at a mutually agreeable location chosen by the parties that is acceptable to the arbitrator. In order to initiate arbitration, a party must submit a completed demand for arbitration and administrative fee of $500 that is applied to the arbitrator's fee. Parties participating in ACAP pay an equal share of the arbitrator's hourly rate that is payable in advance of the hearing.
There are several ways parties may enter ACAP:
By having in place a written retainer agreement which provides for binding arbitration before LACBA after the parties may have exhausted their rights for fee arbitration under Business and Professions Code Section 6200,
By submitting in writing, a Stipulation agreeing to have all disputes between the attorney and the client resolved by arbitration before LACBA. The Stipulation should include all identifying information of all the parties and, if necessary, their attorneys or other representatives; the issues to be determined by the Arbitrator; the amount of money involved, if any, and any other remedies requested,
When a retainer agreement between an attorney and a client provides for binding arbitration of all disputes after exhaustion, if necessary, of client's rights under Business and Professions Code Section 6200, the arbitration under these rules may be initiated by one party serving on all other parties notice of the nature of the claim and demand for Arbitration.
The parties can include a provision in the fee agreement to take advantage of the services provided through the Attorney Client Arbitration Program. The following provisions can be included in either a State Bar sample fee agreement (see http://calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/Forms.aspx, Member Services, Sample Fee Agreements for State Bar samples) or any other existing retainer agreement or engagement letter and permission is given for its use:
(a) MANDATORY FEE ARBITRATION
You have the right to elect to have any dispute relating to attorney's fees under this [contract/agreement/engagement letter] submitted to the Los Angeles County Bar Association, for Arbitration by the Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Service Program pursuant to California Business and Professions Code Section 6200 et seq.
(b) BINDING ARBITRATION
In the event either of us seeks a hearing after arbitration of a fee dispute or in connection with any other dispute relating to, or arising from, our services in this or other matters, you and we agree that the dispute(s) shall be resolved by binding arbitration before the Los Angeles County Bar Association ACAP Program, under the Rules in effect at that time, including our mutual obligations of cooperation and disclosure. IN SO DOING, WE BOTH GIVE UP OUR RIGHTS TO A JURY TRIAL AND TO AN APPEAL, EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY LAW.
For more information, visit LACBA’s Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration website or call (213) 896-6426.
Law Practice Mediation Program
The Law Practice Mediation Program (LPMP) provides lawyers with a confidential forum to resolve a wide range of practice issues privately and expeditiously. Parties can resolve a number of disputes that may arise within an attorney's practice and in relation to another law firm. Mediators for the program have experience in resolving business, partnership and employment matters. Parties interested in participating in the Law Practice Mediation Program must pay an administrative fee and pay an equal share of the mediator’s hourly rate.
Besides handling attorney disputes, the Law Practice Mediation Program is an alternative through which parties may submit all types of attorney-client disputes that may include claims of: document or file ownership, malpractice, ethics, and other performance issues. Parties may also submit disputes that fall under the Business and Professions Code Sections 6200-6206 when the parties wish to "opt out" of voluntary mediation conducted through the mandatory fee arbitration program to enter mediation without the necessity of submitting a request for mandatory arbitration.
This is just a sample of the types of cases appropriate for law practice mediation:
- Internal office disputes involving partners, associates, staff attorneys, and support staff (including fee allocation)
- Disputes concerning firm names;
- Partnership dissolution, firm break, or retirement; firm to firm disputes
- Litigation disputes arising from the employment of expert witnesses
- Liability for sanctions, expenses incurred, or other issues
For more information, contact Sharron McLawyer, Director of Attorney-Client Mediation and Arbitration Service, at (213) 896-6541
Notice of Fee Dispute Obligations
The Business and Professions Code Sections 6200-6206 requires attorneys to arbitrate fee disputes and to provide written notice of the client's right to arbitrate prior to or at the commencement of any proceeding against the client.
As a service to our members, we have attached the required State Bar-approved form in case you should need it. While you may designate any State Bar-approved fee dispute program in the form, we have listed our program for your convenience. You can access the form (Notice-of-Clients-Right-to-Fee-Arbitration) here.
LACBA's fee-dispute mediation and arbitration program allows clients and attorneys to resolve disputes concerning fees and costs charged by the attorney through an informal, low-cost alternative to the court system. Most cases take approximately four to six months to complete. In addition, LACBA provides fee arbitration services for disputes between attorneys and also disputes filed by an attorney against a client.
LACBA administers the process using the Rules for Conduct of Arbitration of Fee Disputes and Other Related Matters. Parties can also choose to mediate the dispute before having their dispute arbitrated if they wish. Mediation is even speedier and less formal than arbitration. For more information, please call (213) 896-6426.
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 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 Service 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 Service (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.
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