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A Guide to Fee Dispute Resolution

What is Fee Dispute Resolution? 

            The purpose of fee dispute resolution is to resolve disputes over legal fees between clients and attorneys without going to court.  If the attorney works in the Tenth Judicial District, under this program, any client, or person who pays the fee on behalf of the client, may file a petition with the Tenth Judicial District Bar requesting fee dispute resolution if the fee charged by that attorney is disputed.  However, before filing the petition, the petitioner must first make a reasonable attempt to resolve the dispute with the attorney.

            Lawyers who are parties to fee disputes may also request fee dispute resolution, but the client must agree to participate.  Before filing suit to collect a disputed fee, the lawyer must make reasonable efforts to advise the client of this program and give the client at least 30 days in which to file a petition for fee dispute resolution.  Whenever a client files a petition, the lawyer must participate in good faith throughout the entire process.

            The petition for fee dispute resolution should be sent to the Tenth Judicial District Bar; PO Box 3686; Cary, NC 27519-3686.  The petition should contain a full explanation of the billing arrangement between the attorney and the client, and specifically what is disputed regarding the fee and why.  If there was a written fee contract, a copy should be provided, along with any other documentation that supports the petitioner’s position.


What Happens When You File Your Petition?

            When the Tenth Judicial District Bar receives your petition, a copy will be sent to the other party, who will be asked to respond.  Sufficient investigation will be conducted by the Tenth Judicial District Bar Fee Dispute Resolution Committee to determine if the matter is suitable for handling under the Tenth Judicial District Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Program.  In fairness to all concerned, the Committee has the right to dismiss a petition if it is determined that the request is frivolous or moot, there is a lack of jurisdiction, or the facts clearly support the conclusion that the fee was earned and is not excessive.

            If the matter is suitable for handling by the Tenth Judicial District Bar, a committee member will attempt to resolve the dispute by mediating between the parties over the telephone, by letter or in person.  If an agreement is reached, it will be reduced to writing and signed by all parties.  If mediation proves unsuccessful, the parties will be offered binding arbitration handled by the Tenth Judicial District Bar Fee Dispute Resolution Committee.  Both parties must agree in writing to make the process binding and the decision is enforceable in any court of competent jurisdiction.  If mediation is unsuccessful, and both parties do not agree to binding arbitration, the parties may then file a lawsuit.


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