The State Bar's Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program is an informal, confidential, and lower-cost forum for resolving fee disputes between lawyers and their clients. This kind of arbitration is required for a lawyer if requested by a client. For more information or assistance, call the State Bar Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program at 415-538-2020
How does the program work?
If an attorney claims you owe an outstanding balance of fees or costs, they must provide to you a “Notice of Client’s Right to Fee Arbitration” form approved by the State Bar before or at the time of filing a lawsuit, or other proceeding to collect the amount. You will then have the option of asking for mandatory fee arbitration with the appropriate local bar association program within 30 days of receiving that notice, or with the State Bar if the appropriate local bar association does not offer mandatory fee arbitration. If you fail to request mandatory fee arbitration within 30 days, you will have waived your right to arbitration, and the attorney may take legal action to collect the fees or costs.
After you submit a request for arbitration form and filing fee to the appropriate program, the attorney can respond to your request. A neutral arbitrator, or a panel of three arbitrators, depending on the amount in dispute, will be assigned to listen to both you and the attorney, and decide the appropriate fees. The arbitrator may decide that you paid the attorney more than is appropriate, and you may be awarded a refund of attorney’s fees or costs already paid.
The arbitrator may also decide that you must pay the attorney unpaid fees, or that neither of you owe anything further. In no event will an arbitrator order you to pay more than what you agreed to in your fee agreement.