Attorney-Client Fee Disputes
ATTORNEY-CLIENT FEE DISPUTES
The attorneys at Kosnett Law Firm handle attorney-client fee disputes in Los Angeles County and throughout Central and Southern California. Fee disputes may be initiated by either the attorney or the client. If the client feels overcharged, it may be because the client was dissatisfied with the outcome of the representation, or it may be due to miscommunication between the attorney and client as to how services are being billed. When a client has a specific complaint about the lawyers’ billing practices, it usually falls into one or more of the following areas:
- Billing for more hours than the work actually took
- Billing for work that was never done
- Performing unnecessary work
- Billing at the attorney’s hourly rate for work performed by a paralegal or junior associate
- Charging for expenses that are unreasonable in light of the actual costs incurred
Even without specific allegations of faulty billing practices, a client may still feel that he or she is being overcharged by the lawyer. The State Bar of California has published Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, and Rule 4-200 prohibits an attorney from charging or collecting an unconscionable fee. Whether a particular fee is unconscionable in a given circumstance depends upon a variety of factors including the time and labor required, the amount involved, and the results obtained. Rule 4-200 lists 11 such factors among the many that may be considered.
If a fee dispute cannot be worked out directly with the attorney, the first step is usually arbitration before the State Bar panel of arbitrators. Arbitration may be binding or non-binding. If a non-binding arbitration is unsuccessful, in most cases the dispute may proceed to court for a full trial. Even in the case of a binding arbitration, it may be possible in court to have the result modified or to have the court order a new arbitration with a new panel. The options available in the case of a binding arbitration are more limited than if the arbitration was non-binding.
In either case, there are many deadlines and procedures that must be followed, or the parties can lose their rights to have an arbitration award modified or to request a new trial in court. It is strongly recommended that you be represented by an attorney throughout the process who is experienced in handling attorney-client fee disputes.
See our Resources page for more information about the State Bar program or local arbitration panels available in your area. For representation in an attorney-client fee dispute, or to discuss your dispute with an experienced fee dispute attorney, contact Kosnett Law Firm at 310-751-0446 for a free consultation.