Lawyer Fees Unreasonable? Arbitrate Them
Even reasonable people can disagree about the reasonableness of fees charged for professional services. Purchasing professional services, such as medical and legal services, is not like buying a bar of soap. We know where to find soap, what type we want and, generally, the price we should expect to pay for it. Furthermore, we alone decide how much soap we need, and we buy only the quantity we want.
This typically is not true with professional services. Service providers, such as doctors and lawyers, play an important role in determining the type and quantity of services we buy. In many cases, the total cost cannot be determined until the matter has been fully resolved. This, naturally, gives rise to occasional complaints about the reasonableness of fees charged.
As with any dispute, a consumer’s first recourse should be to discuss the fee with the provider. Make every reasonable effort to settle the matter informally. No harm can come from this.
If this fails, and if your complaint involves a disagreement over fees for a lawyer’s services, an informal remedy may be available to you. The State Bar of Arizona administers a program of fee arbitration for disputes between attorneys and clients. This includes contingent fees commonly charged by personal injury lawyers for car accident, medical malpractice and defective products cases.
This arbitration system is easy to use and generally provides the parties with a prompt remedy. When parties agree to use the fee arbitration process, the decision of the arbitrator is final.
No one can be forced to participate in a process of voluntary arbitration. If you file a petition with the State Bar to arbitrate a fee, your lawyer cannot be required to take part in it. Lawyers are strongly encouraged, however, to do so.
If your lawyer refuses to participate in the arbitration process, the matter may proceed with or without his or her involvement. If you win your arbitration matter against the non-participating attorney, an independent attorney may be appointed by the State Bar to represent you in the courts to advance your claim for a refund or to defend against any collection lawsuit filed by your former lawyer. The State Bar appointed lawyer will represent you without charging you a fee.
If you would like more information about the fee arbitration system, consult the website of the State Bar of Arizona or telephone 602-252-4804.