My attorney sued me in court, what do I do?
- If my attorney has sued me in court, how long do I have to file for arbitration with the Alaska Bar Association? If your attorney’s fees are the subject of a court case, you can request the court case be put on “hold.” This is called a “stay” of the proceedings. You must file a petition for fee arbitration with the Bar Association within twenty (20) days of receiving a “Notice of Client’s Right to Arbitrate” and the civil complaint from your attorney. Next, you will need to file your request for stay of court proceedings form with the court. You can get a sample stay from the Bar Association.
- What is complex arbitration? The fee arbitration executive committee may determine a case as complex based on any of the following:
A. complex legal or factual issues presented
B. the hearing may last at least 8 hours, or
C. the amount in dispute exceeds $50,000
One or both parties may be required to pay for reasonable costs of a complex arbitration. This would include an hourly fee for each arbitrator. The parties will be given the estimated costs before the hearing.
- Is fee arbitration confidential? Fee arbitration proceedings are confidential. Generally, hearings and records for the arbitration are only open to the parties to the dispute and not to the public.
- Is fee arbitration binding? You and the attorney are bound by the decision of the fee arbitration panel, unless the decision is set aside by the superior court on appeal, as discussed below. You or the attorney may apply to the court for an order “confirming” the arbitration decision. A decision confirmed by the court may be enforced in the same manner as a court judgment.
- How long does the fee arbitration process take? Generally, 4 to 6 months. However, there are other matters which could prolong the process such as a complex arbitration, schedule conflicts, etc. There is not one answer for all matters.
- Can I appeal the decision? A fee arbitration decision may be appealed by you or the attorney to the superior court within the time period and under the limited grounds set out in Alaska Statutes 09.43.120-180. Procedures for appeal are set out in the Rules of Appellate Procedure 601-612.
- Can I get assistance in filing? The Bar Association staff is available to provide you with information and assistance in the processing and handling of your fee dispute.
- Do I have to go to mediation? No. Mediation can be requested by either party but must be agreed to by both parties in order to proceed. If mediation fails, the fee dispute goes back to fee arbitration. If you wish to try resolving your fee dispute through mediation, fill out the Request for Mediation form. We cannot accept a request for mediation without a completed Petition for Fee Arbitration.
- Where can I find a copy of the Alaska Bar Rules concerning Fee Disputes? Click here.
- Where can I find a copy of the Alaska Bar Rules concerning Ethical Conduct? Click here.
- Where can I find a copy of the adopted Ethics Opinion regarding misleading to characterize a fee or retainer as “non-refundable”? Click here.