Steps for Fee Dispute Arbitration

  1. Read the bylaws and complete the application.
  2. Obtain response from opposing party.
  3. Mandatory mediation.
  4. Arbitration.
  5. Arbitration hearing.
  6. Arbitration award.


Read the Rules of Procedure for the Fee Dispute Committee, familiarize yourself with the process and complete the Petitioner’s Agreement for Arbitration. Attach copies of any documentation to support your claim (this includes the fee agreement you had with your attorney, if there was one; cancelled checks, receipts, etc., as well as documentation of how you have attempted to resolve the fee dispute before contacting the state bar).


The State Bar will send copies of the forms to the opposing party (Respondent), who will have an opportunity to respond.  The Respondent will be provided with a Respondent’s Agreement for Fee Dispute and may submit the completed form or provide a written response.  Participation in arbitration is mandatory for attorneys who have been the subject of three or more fee disputes within the two years prior to the filing of the arbitration agreement. (Participation is defined in the Rules of Procedure)


In the event the responding party to a filed fee dispute does not consent or is not contractually obligated to submit the matter to binding arbitration, the matter will be subjected to mandatory mediation before a mediator. In the absence of a binding arbitration agreement, the outcome of the mediation will be the end of the Committee’s involvement in the matter.  No arbitration will occur for matters which are subject to mandatory mediation.


If both parties sign binding arbitration agreements and voluntary mediation has failed, the Petitioner may request the fee dispute be resolved through arbitration. If a case is referred to arbitration, a member of the Committee will appoint a single arbitrator (if the matter involves a fee of $10,000 or less) or a panel of three arbitrators (for fee disputes over $10,000).

Once the arbitrator(s) has been assigned, they will contact the parties, schedule a hearing date, and ask you to present any additional evidence you may want to provide. If a party is unable to attend the hearing in person, the hearing may be held telephonically. Hearing dates may be continued by the arbitrator if good cause is shown.


The arbitrator or arbitration panel will hold a hearing at a place of the arbitrator’s choosing (often at the arbitrator’s office). The parties to the arbitration may present evidence and cross examine witnesses appearing at the hearing. Parties have the right to be represented by an attorney at the arbitration. Parties also have the right to bring a court reporter at their own expense (request to bring a court reporter must be made in advance and approved by the arbitrator). If either party fails to appear at the hearing without good cause, the arbitrator(s) may proceed with the hearing and resolve the dispute upon the evidence produced.


Within 30 days of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator or arbitration panel will render an award in writing. The award will be mailed to the parties by the State Bar office. Binding arbitration awards may be enforced by any court of competent jurisdiction.

Parties may appeal the arbitrator’s decision within 30 days after the decision was mailed. The Committee’s State Chair will determine the merits of the appeal based on section XIII of the Rules of Procedure for Fee Dispute Arbitration.