Fee matters are not generally a basis for discipline unless, for example, the fee is unreasonable pursuant to I.R.P.C. 1.5(a) or the attorney has failed to provide an accounting of fees and costs upon the reasonable request of a client pursuant to I.R.P.C. 1.5(f). (I.R.P.C. 1.5 )
If you have a fee dispute with your client, you may wish to agree to Fee Arbitration.
The Fee Arbitration Forms are available in PDF format. If you are unable to open and print the PDF version of the forms, contact Bar Counsel’s Office at (208) 334-4500 to request a copy by mail.
Idaho Bar Commission Rules 701 – 708 govern Fee Arbitration..
Fee Arbitration is an alternative means for the speedy, efficient and fair resolution of disputes over fees between attorneys and clients. ( I.B.C.R. 701 ). The process is initiated by completing a Petition and Agreement (the Fee Arbitration Forms mentioned above). Either an attorney or client may petition for arbitration. If the client submits a Petition, the attorney is notified by Bar Counsel’s Office that his/her client has filed for arbitration of a fee dispute. The attorney has 21 days to decide whether he/she will sign the Agreement and be bound by the decision of the arbitrator(s). Fee Arbitration is not mandatory in Idaho and attorneys are not required to sign the Agreement to be bound by the decision of the arbitrators or participate in the Fee Arbitration. Regardless of whether the attorney signs the Agreement, however, the case proceeds to mediation. (I.B.C.R. 703 ).
Each case initiated by a client is assigned to a mediator who contacts both parties to determine whether the fee dispute can be resolved. The mediator is given 30 days to try and work out a settlement. Mediators are assigned from a rotating list of volunteer attorneys. If no settlement is reached and the parties have agreed to binding arbitration, the matter is referred on to arbitration. If the attorney has not agreed to binding arbitration and mediation is unsuccessful, the matter is closed and the parties are left to their own civil remedies, i.e., initiating a lawsuit in court.
If both parties have agreed to Fee Arbitration, a panel is assigned from a rotating list of volunteer attorneys and non-attorneys in each district. Any dispute of $2,500 or less is assigned to a single attorney arbitrator. If the amount in dispute is over $2,500, a panel consisting of two attorneys and one non-attorney is assigned to the matter. A hearing is to be set within 30 days of the assignment and a decision is to be issued within 15 days after the hearing. (I.B.C.R. 704 ).
The written decision is sent to the Idaho State Bar, which then sends a copy to the client and a copy to the attorney by certified mail. Either party may ask a court of competent jurisdiction to enter a judgment based upon the arbitration decision, if necessary. ( I.B.C.R. 706 ).
If an attorney submits a Petition, the client is notified by Bar Counsel’s Office that their attorney has filed for arbitration of a fee dispute. The client has 21 days to decide whether to sign the Agreement and be bound by the decision of the arbitrator(s). If the client refuses or fails to consent to arbitration, the matter will be closed due to lack of agreement and both parties are notified. (I.B.C.R. 703 ).
The Idaho State Bar has no appeal process for Fee Arbitration.
* Applicability of the Uniform Arbitration Act, I.C. § 7-901, et seq.
If a written fee agreement between an attorney and client expressly provides that all fee disputes are to be submitted to the Idaho State Bar’s Fee Arbitration process for resolution under Section VII of the Idaho Bar Commission Rules, Bar Counsel has determined that the Uniform Arbitration Act applies in its entirety to the arbitration of that dispute.