Lawyer Fee Dispute Resolution
The LSBA Lawyer Fee Dispute Resolution Program was formed to resolve legal fee disputes between attorneys and clients as well as attorneys and other lawyers. If you are interested in obtaining more information on the program and how it can be helpful to you please read the guidelines below.
If you are having a fee dispute with an attorney and wish to obtain the forms, rules, and guidelines to initiate the LSBA Lawyer Dispute Resolution Program, simply download the forms from this webpage or contact Kristy Nunez at 504-619-0138 to request a hard copy. If you would like to speak to someone about the program, please contact Shawn L. Holahan of the Louisiana State Bar Association at 504-619-0153. Please understand that the LSBA cannot give legal advice or represent anyone in their fee dispute.
Lawyer Fee Dispute Resolution Links
These guidelines are designed to assist prospective parties and their attorneys by explaining the arbitration procedures set forth in the Louisiana State Bar Association Lawyer Dispute Resolution Rules and are not intended to constitute legal advice to any party or to anyone who contemplates the use of these procedures. The guidelines were developed for parties who represent themselves in an arbitration proceeding as well as those represented by counsel. The guidelines explain the procedures and answer questions regarding them but are not an interpretation of the rules or a substitute for the rules. It is recommended that prospective parties read carefully the rules as well as the guidelines.
How Can the LSBA's "Alternative Dispute Resolution" Program Help Me?
Although most lawyer-client relationships are concluded without fee disputes, disputes and controversies will arrise occasionally regarding fees. The dispute may be between the lawyer and the client or it may be between lawyers who have been involved in a case. Such disputes could be resolved through the courts; however alternatives to going to court exist which are intended to provide quick, low cost and confidential solutions. These are generally called Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs or ADR Programs.
The Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) sponsors one program for the resolution of legal-fee disputes through impartial arbitration. Some local bar associations may sponsor similar programs and the LSBA encourages their use. In addition, several private organizations sponsor dispute resolution programs. For further information or assistance regarding the LSBA program you may contact:
Louisiana State Bar Association
601 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130-3404
Phone: (504) 566-1600 or (800) 421-5722
What is Arbitration?
Arbitration is the submission of a disagreement to one or more impartial persons (who are known as arbitrators) for a binding decision. Arbitration is intended to provide a prompt and inexpensive alternative to the court system. Parties should recognize that in choosing arbitration as a means of resolving a dispute, they generally give up their rights to pursue the matter through the courts.
How do I Start the Arbitration Process?
There are two ways to start the arbitration process, (1) by Demand for Arbitration or (2) by Submission to Arbitration. Arbitration is a voluntary process. If the other party has agreed in advance to arbitration, the party wishing to start an arbitration proceeding makes a demand that the advance agreement be honored. Usually such advance agreement is in the form of an arbitration clause in the fee contract which provides for arbitration under the LSBA rules. If there is no advance agreement, the parties may agree after the dispute arises to submit their dispute to arbitration. This is called a Submission.
By Demand for Arbitration
. If you find that the other party did agree in advance, you should follow the procedures set forth in Rule 6 of the LSBA Rules:
By Submission to Arbitration
- One Petition for Arbitration should be completed and signed, preferably on forms which can be obtained from LBSA staff or from the website. The use of these forms is not mandatory; a Petition may be filed even by correspondence if all of the information is included.
- Attach a copy of the arbitration clause contained in the fee contract to the Petition form, or quote the clause on the Petition form in the space indicated.
- Send the original to the other party (known as the respondent), preferably by Certified Mail-Return Receipt Requested and retain one copy for your files.
- One copy is to be sent to the LSBA together with the appropriate Administrative Fee as provided in the Fee Schedule.
. If you find that the other party did not agree in advance, you must get the other party's consent to arbitrate. You and the other party must submit jointly the dispute to arbitration. This is called Initiation under a Submission and is governed by Rule 7 of the LSBA rules:
- The Submission form should be completed and signed by both parties. Again, the forms may be obtained from the LSBA at no charge.
- One copy of the Submission Agreement is retained by each party.
- One copy is sent to the LSBA together with the appropriate Administrative Fee as provided in the Fee Schedule.
The LSBA staff will be happy to provide assistance, including assisting you in determining whether the other side will agree to arbitration. Upon receipt of the names and addresses of the parties to be contacted, their telephone numbers and a brief description of the dispute, an LSBA representative will invite the other party to participate in the program under a submission. Generally, the LSBA writes to the other party and then follows up by letter within ten days. If the other party does not agree, the administrative fee will be returned to the initating party.
Who Will the Arbitrators Be and How are they Chosen?
The arbitrators are individuals who are selected to decide the case. Usually there will be only one arbitrator; however, in some large and complex cases there may be three. The LSBA maintains a list of people, including lawyers and non-lawyers who are qualified to serve as arbitrators. A list of several of these names will be submitted to the parties who can eliminate names from the list. The parties are asked to rank the remaining names and the LSBA will then make the selection. Arbitrators are selected by the LSBA based on the submissions of the parties; however, the appointments are made by the LSBA in its discretion. Any arbitrator may be challenged for cause, that is, an arbitrator may be removed from the case because of bias or other good reason.
Do I Need A Lawyer to Represent me?
The parties have the right to be represented by counsel and, although the procedures are designed to be simplified and efficient, persons with experience in legal procedure and advocacy may have some advantage over people not experienced. The LSBA does not provide lawyers for parties to the arbitration and each party is responsible for making arrangements for representation. The arbitrators are requested to conduct the proceedings in as uncomplicated a manner as possible and to avoid unnecessary technicalities. Some parties choose to be unrepresented; however, each party must decide individually.
How Are the Proceedings Conducted?
Informally. The hearings are intended to be as informal as possible but broadly based upon the judicial model. Formal rules of evidence are inapplicable and the arbitrator makes rulings on the admissibility of evidence based on common sense and fairness. All parties are given the opportunity for a full hearing.
All proceedings are confidential. The hearings are not open to the public or anyone who is not involved in the dispute. Everyone connected with the arbitration is instructed not to reveal anything about the arbitration to any non-party.
In the absence of special arrangements, no transcript or recording of the proceeding will be made. Any party desiring a transcript or recording must make appropriate arrangements and bear the costs, which, in the absence of agreement shall not be taxable. If any transcript or recording is made, a copy shall be furnished to the arbitrators upon request and to the other parties for review and/or copying at the other party's expense.
The parties are encouraged to cooperate in the exchange of pertinent information and documents prior to any hearing; however formal discovery is generally discouraged and is allowed only by agreement or by order of the arbitrator.
The arbitrator will render a written decision within thirty days following the close of the hearing; however the arbitrator will not usually state the reasons for the decision.
The decision of the arbitrator is final. There is no appeal provided for. The Louisiana Arbitration Law (La. R.S. 9:4201, et seq.) provides limited means of vacating an arbitration award; however the vacating of an award requires judicial involvement and is not provided for under the LSBA program.
How is an Arbitration Award Enforced?
Once an arbitration award is made, through a relatively simple legal proceeding provided for in the Louisiana Arbitration Law, it can be given the same effect as a judgment of a court and is enforced in the same way that a judgment is enforced. The LSBA can provide no assistance in the enforcement of any award.
How Much Will Arbitration Cost?
One of the important goals of arbitration is to minimize the cost of resolving the dispute. Nevertheless, there are costs associated with the process and, to a large extent, each case is unique. The following is intended to give broad guidance for the approximation of costs:
A non refundable administrative fee as outlined below must be submitted to the LSBA along with the arbitration demand or submission agreement.
In lawyer-client disputes, arbitrators usually serve without fee. In other cases the arbitrators are entitled to a reasonable fee (usually $75 per hour) established by the LSBA and paid by the parties.
Other expenses may be required by the arbitrator to be paid by one or both of the parties such as travel expenses and other expenses of the arbitrator.
The LSBA may require advance deposits by the parties to cover the anticipated costs of the arbitration.
It is quite time consuming and inconvenient to the parties and the arbitrator(s) to schedule and reschedule hearings. By virtue of Rule 24, a Postponement Fee of $250.00 must accompany each request for postponement.