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Fee fights? Ho hum (access required)

For nearly 20 years, the Virginia State Bar has been trying to help lawyers resolve fights with clients over fees and billing. The collective reaction of the lawyers: Ho hum. The VSB’s fee dispute resolution program simply hasn’t been used. It has been around for 18 years and currently operates in 12 circuits. The program handled ...

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2 comments

  1. Maybe we should be happy that for the most part, Virginia attorneys seem to be handling fee disputes professionally, without burdening the courts or the fee dispute program.

    Maybe the objectives of this program need to be rethought. As the judge said, he sees maybe 1 fee dispute a year.

    Attorneys understand that suing for a fee may lead to a bar complaint, so firms may handle fee disputes internally by working with the client, or writing off the bill.

    Other fee disputes may involve clients simply not paying (because they can’t), rather than an actual “dispute.”

    Certainly, there will be cases in which a client believes he was overcharged, and an attorney disagrees.

    Maybe we should do a survey to determine how much of a problem fee disputes are, and in what types of cases would the program be helpful (if that has already been done, my apology). Then we can adjust the program’s objectives, and measurements of success.

  2. This program would be great for resolving genuine disputes (as opposed to when a party simply can not pay). The problem is really not in the numbers of cases that are resolved via this method but in the ratio of “requests for information” to the actual use of the program.

    Often when there is a fee dispute, there is an erosion of trust. If the Attorney then presents this foreign method of resolution, it could look to the client (from the outside), wrongly, as if it is a rigged system.

    If a client ever brought a fee dispute to the system, I would seriously consider it. I do not think attorneys sometimes sue previous clients because they are afraid of ADR. But I know I have held back from going to the system because of how it would be perceived by the former client.

    I am glad they are continuing the program, and perhaps we need information flyers on the system at our courthouses for clients to find on their own.

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