Attorney Fee Disputes
Are you in a dispute about attorney fees? We’ve put together a page full of information on options you have at your disposal.
Attorney Fee Disputes
Fee arbitration is a process you can use to resolve a dispute over fees with your attorney. An impartial panel hears the dispute and makes a final and binding decision based on the facts and evidence presented by you and the attorney.
You may arbitrate a fee dispute with your attorney if:
- The attorney is licensed to practice in Alaska; or
- The services involved a legal matter conducted in Alaska.
You must try to resolve the dispute over fees with your attorney on your own before starting arbitration. You cannot use the fee arbitration process if the fee was set by a court decision, by a statute, or by court rule. Request Fee Arbitration.
Mediation is a confidential and informal way to resolve a dispute with the help of a neutral third person assigned by the Bar Association (mediator). The mediator works with both parties to help them reach a mutually agreeable solution to their differences.
Mediation proceedings are confidential and informal. The mediator can’t issue subpoenas or swear-in witnesses. The mediator can’t force the parties to resolve their differences. But the mediator can help the parties reach a solution agreeable to both of them.
If the parties work out all or some of their differences, the resolution – or agreement – is put in writing and signed by both parties. Under Alaska Bar Rule 13(e), the agreement is considered a contract and is legally enforceable in court.
Matters that are not resolved are referred back to bar counsel. The dispute will then proceed through the Fee Arbitration Process.
If you are interested in mediation, complete the Request for Mediation.
NOTE: You must file the Fee Arbitration Form along with the form for mediation
How do I ask for fee arbitration?
Complete the Petition for Arbitration of Fee Dispute. Some of the questions you will be asked are:
- When did you hire the attorney? (if it has been more than 3 years ago you will need to explain why you waited longer than 3 years to file the petition.)
- What did you hire the attorney to do?
- How much do you think you were overcharged?
- Why do you believe the fee was excessive?
You must state the efforts you have made to settle the dispute with your attorney.
If you are filling out the petition electronically you will need to print out the completed form to sign and send the original to:
Alaska Bar Association
840 K Street, Suite 100
Anchorage, AK 99501-3353
IMPORTANT: we cannot accept forms filed electronically or by fax. We cannot accept a Xeroxed copy of your completed petition. We can only accept your petition with an original signature and the date you signed it.
Instructions for submitting a Petition for Arbitration of Fee Dispute
- Complete the Petition for Arbitration of Fee Dispute. Remember you must send in the form with your original signature and the date you signed it.
- It is important that you answer all the questions on the petition. Not answering all of the questions may be grounds for denying your petition. If you are uncertain how to answer a question, please contact the Alaska Bar Association at 907-272-7469 or email us at email@example.com.
- If there are papers or documents which would help explain your fee dispute with your attorney, attach copies.
- Attachments to the petition should be arranged in a neat and orderly fashion. Please do not use staples or tabs.
- Keep a copy of everything you submit to the Alaska Bar Association.
If you have questions concerning the fee arbitration form or process in Alaska, please contact the Alaska Bar Association at 907-272-7469 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fee Arbitration Process
Initiating the Process. The process is started when you file your petition with our office. We review it to make sure that you have filled it out correctly. A copy of your petition and any attachments you provide are sent to the attorney by certified mail. The attorney is given a 10-day grace period to work out the fee dispute directly with you—which they may or may not do.
- Assignment of Arbitration to Hearing Panel: A single member of the fee arbitration committee will hear the matter if the amount in dispute is $5,000 or less. Otherwise, a panel of three members, one of whom is not an attorney, is selected from a local standing committee in the community where the legal services were provided. There are local standing committees in Anchorage/Kenai, Fairbanks and Juneau. Special arrangements are made for disputes in communities outside these areas.
- The Hearing: You and the attorney will be given twenty (20) days advance notice of the hearing. The arbitrator or chairperson conducts the hearing and decides what testimony and documents may be used as evidence. Relevant and reliable evidence will be admitted. If you or the attorney fails to appear at the hearing, the hearing may proceed in that person’s absence. Special procedures may be used by you or the attorney to: submit a written statement in addition to, or instead of, testimony at the hearing; submit witness affidavits instead of a witness presenting testimony in person; and participate by conference call. Generally, the cost of the call is paid by the party requesting it.
- The Decision: The hearing panel will make its decision within thirty (30) days after the close of the hearing. The decision must be agreed to by a majority of the hearing panel members. The panel may decide that the attorney should refund fees already collected; that the attorney should collect only part of the fees; or that the fees are reasonable.