Fee Arbitration

The Lorain County Bar Association offers, at no cost to participants, a fee arbitration program as a means of settling fee disputes between attorneys and clients. Before arbitration can be considered, the parties must first have made a good faith attempt to settle the dispute between them. Either a client or an attorney may request arbitration. Fee arbitration will not resolve allegations of malpractice or violations of professional ethics.

A client is not required to arbitrate a fee dispute. Once the client signs an agreement to arbitrate, however, the results of arbitration are binding.  Attorneys are required by the Rules for the Government of the Bar of the Supreme Court of Ohio (Rule V 4[G]) to cooperate with a fee arbitration process, if requested to do so.

Fee Arbitration hearings are held at the Lorain County Bar Association, and should last no more than two (2) hours. While the hearings are designed to be informal, each party may bring with them any witnesses or documents that might prove helpful in resolving the dispute.

The hearing panel will consist of three arbitrators (two attorneys and one lay person).  All parties should come to the arbitration prepared to present all evidence that they want the panel to consider. After the arbitrators sign the Fee Arbitration Award form and deliver it to the Lorain County Bar Association, the Association will mail copies of the decision to the parties. Within ten (10) days of receiving that decision, the parties must comply with the Arbitration Award.

General Information About Your Fee Dispute With Your Attorney and the Fee Arbitration Program

  • Before a petition for fee dispute arbitration may be filed with the Fee Arbitration Committee, you (the client) must make a good faith effort to resolve the fee dispute with your attorney. You will be required to explain in your petition how you attempted to resolve the dispute.

  • If you have not already received an accounting (i.e., a detailed statement of the time the attorney spent on your case with his or her accompanying charges) you may request one. An attorney is obligated to provide you with an accounting if you request it.

  • Once you receive an accounting, you can review the individual time charges to determine if you still believe that the total fee is unreasonable. Remember that an attorney is generally entitled to be compensated for time s/he spent on your case, despite the result obtained in your case or whether s/he was discharged by you prior to completion of the case.

  • You may wish to send a letter to the attorney requesting that the fee be adjusted based on the reasons you believe that the fee is unreasonable. You can reference specific charges in the accounting with which you disagree. You should keep a copy of any letter you send to the attorney in this regard as proof that you attempted to resolve the dispute with the attorney prior to filing a fee dispute petition.

  • Even if you have already tried to resolve the dispute with your attorney without success, you may wish to send him/her a letter giving him/her in writing another chance to resolve the dispute with you before you pursue fee dispute resolution.

  • Please note that if you wish to participate in the fee arbitration process and you also wish to file a grievance against the same attorney because you believe his/her conduct was unethical, you must file the grievance first and wait for a final determination by the Certified Grievance Committee regarding the ethical issues. If, after the grievance process is complete, there remains an unresolved fee dispute, you could then file the fee dispute petition with the Fee Arbitration Committee.

Instructions for Filing a Fee Dispute Petition

  • Complete and execute the petition and consent forms. All parties who are responsible for payment of the legal fees should agree to be bound by the arbitration decision and should sign the petition and consent forms.

  • Attach to the petition and consent forms additional sheets of paper which include a typed or printed statement which details the following: 1) a description of your efforts to resolve the dispute with the attorney, 2) your understanding of your fee agreement, and 3) a detailed account of your dispute.

  • Attach copies of the following: 1) your fee contract, 2) any bills or accountings that you have received regarding the fees you are disputing, 3) receipts or other proof of payments already made to the attorney, 4) any letters to your attorney wherein you have attempted to resolve the dispute, and 5) any other documents which you believe support your position. Please note that any materials you wish to submit to an arbitration panel as evidence to support your position must be submitted with your petition packet. (Please do not attach original documents as they will not be returned to you.)

    Download Fee Arbitration Request Form 

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