Legal Fee Arbitration
SETTLING DISPUTES OVER LEGAL FEES
The following are questions and answers about the process:
Who Runs The Program?
- The Legal Fee Arbitration Committee is made up of about 100 members appointed by both the Denver Bar and Colorado Bar Association Presidents.
Is The Committee Made Up Only Of Lawyers?
- No. Non-lawyers sit on most of the panels that hear the disputes and render decisions.
Is The Program Voluntary Or Compulsory? -
It's voluntary - and both sides must agree to participate before any arbitration takes place.
Step 1: Reporting the Dispute
Either the lawyer or the client should send a letter to the Legal Fee Arbitration Committee, 1900 Grant Street, 9th Floor, Denver, CO 80203-4336. The following information should be contained in the letter:
a. that there is a fee dispute
b. request for its submission to fee arbitration
c. full names addresses and telephone numbers of both parties
d. amount of the dispute; please note only fee disputes over $100 are considered.
Do Not Send Any Documentation at the Time of the Initial Letter.
Step 2: The Cooling Off Period
The Bar Association office will notify both parties that the request for arbitration has been received. It also notifies them that the arbitration process will be delayed for 30 days to give them another opportunity to settle the dispute themselves. Many disputes are settled during this "Cooling Off" period.
Step 3: Agreement to Arbitrate
Both parties will receive two forms to complete:
a. Background Information and Request for Relief Form asking each party to describe his/her position in the dispute.
b. The Arbitration Contract which, must be signed and returned by both the client and the attorney. This indicates an acceptance of arbitration and makes the Committees decision binding.
Only when the agreements are signed by both parties and returned to the bar office will the chairperson of the Legal Fee Arbitration Committee appoint a Hearing Officer.
Step 4: Hearing Officer
The Hearing Officer arranges a place, date, and time for the hearing. At the hearing, the client and lawyer may testify and may provide witnesses and documents or records.
Step 5: Findings
As soon as possible after the hearing, the findings and recommendations are sent to the full Committee for review. The Committee will then issue a Final Written Determination, saying whether the fee should be paid or whether it is disapproved (and if disapproved, whether entirely or partially). The Committee has no authority to order an attorney's fee increased.
Copies of the written decision are sent to the parties. All matters related to the dispute are kept confidential by the panel, the Committee and the staff at the Colorado and Bar Associations.