Answers to questions about Fee Dispute Arbitration
The following information, presented as a public service by the Committees of the DuPage County Bar Association, pertains to some of the more frequently asked questions posed to attorneys on various issues..
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The following information does not constitute legal advice of any kind, but is intended to help the public with understanding some of the basic issues they may face.
Answers to questions about Fee Dispute Arbitration
Q. What is fee dispute arbitration?
A. The Professional Responsibility Committee of the DuPage County Bar Association provides a Fee Dispute Arbitration Service to assist clients and their attorneys in resolving fee disputes.
The Committee will oversee arbitration of any disagreement between a client and attorney practicing in DuPage County concerning the fee paid, charged or claimed for legal services where there is an expressed or implied contract establishing an attorney-client relationship.
The Committee does not deal with the following matters:
- Disputes over which a court has fixed the fee.
- Claims against the attorney for damages or based upon alleged malpractice or professional misconduct.
- Complaints against attorneys outside the realm of a fee dispute, and
- Matters currently under investigation by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission
Q. Who should file a fee dispute?
A. It is best if an attorney and client can come to an agreement by taking time to communicate. Often, a meeting between the attorney and client, where concerns are openly discussed, can resolve the problem. However, if all efforts at agreement have failed, any DuPage County attorney or client may wish to take advantage of this service.
If both the client and attorney agree, a mediator may be appointed to informally meet with the parties in an attempt to resolve the dispute by agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, the dispute will proceed to arbitration.
Q. How do I file a fee dispute?
A. You may file a fee dispute by writing or calling the DuPage County Bar Association office and requesting a Fee Dispute form which must be filled out and returned to the Professional Responsibility Committee Chair at the address indicated on the form.
Q. What happens next?
A. Upon receipt of the completed Fee Dispute form, the other party is sent a copy and asked to respond. Assuming that response is received (and it usually is), the complete file is reviewed by the Professional Responsibility Committee. If both the client and attorney agree to arbitrate, an investigator may offer to informally meet with the parties in an attempt to resolve the dispute by agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, the dispute will proceed to arbitration, and the investigator will assist the parties in providing relevant documents and information to the arbitration panel. The Committee Chair selects a panel of three arbitrators from the Committee Membership. The investigator appointed is generally one of the arbitrators. A hearing is held with the parties involved. Hearings are generally brief (usually an hour in length) and informal. After the hearing, the arbitrator(s) will make an award and send that decision by mail to each party. Arbitration awards are final and enforceable.
Q. What happens if either party refuses to agree to arbitration?
A. As arbitration is a voluntary process, the Committee can proceed no further with the arbitration if either party refuses to participate. The complaining party may then choose to seek other legal actions.
Q. What happens if the attorney has filed suit against me already?
A. A fee dispute may be filed at any time before a judge makes a decision on the matter. If you are asked to appear in court before your fee dispute has finished, you may advise the judge that you have filed a fee dispute with the DuPage County Bar Association and ask the judge to delay the matter until it has been arbitrated. However, if the judge does not grant your request and makes a decision, the Fee Dispute Committee cannot proceed with arbitration.
Q. What can you expect and not expect from the DuPage County Bar?
A. You can expect us to treat your fee dispute promptly and fairly. We are genuinely concerned about your dispute and will handle it as quickly as possible.
You will not receive any individual legal advice on any subject except to be advised with respect to the procedural handling of the fee dispute.
Q. Where should you write or call to contact the Fee Dispute Department?
A. The Fee Dispute form can be obtained from the DuPage County Bar by calling 630/653-7779 or writing the DCBA at 126 S. County Farm Rd., Wheaton, IL, 60187-4597. The completed agreement form must be returned to the address indicated on the form, after which the Professional Responsibility Committee will handle it.
If you need to consult with an attorney, The DuPage County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service can locate an attorney in your area (DuPage County, Illinois).