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
If I think an attorney has engaged in misconduct or malpractice, will fee arbitration help me?
No. By law, mandatory fee arbitration cannot help you recover damages or offset expenses incurred for the attorney’s misconduct or malpractice. If the arbitrator determines that the attorney’s malpractice or professional misconduct reduced the value of legal services provided, the arbitrator can reduce the attorney’s fees.
If you think you have a separate claim for legal malpractice, you should discuss your rights with an independent lawyer. However, if you file a lawsuit for malpractice or seek court resolution of the fee dispute after receipt of the Notice of Client’s Right to Fee Arbitration, you waive your right to pursue mandatory fee arbitration.
The Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program does not have the authority to discipline attorneys for professional misconduct.
If you wish to file a disciplinary complaint with the State Bar of California about your attorney's conduct, you may do so online. Please keep in mind that a discipline complaint and a request to arbitrate a fee dispute are separate matters. Filing a complaint may result in disciplinary action against the attorney; however, the result may or may not require the attorney to refund fees.
The State Bar's pamphlet, "If You Have a Problem with an Attorney," may be helpful in deciding whether to file a complaint.