MODEL RULES FOR FEE ARBITRATION - Rule 4

Rule 4 COMMENCEMENT OF PROCEEDINGS

  1. Petition to Arbitrate. A fee arbitration proceeding shall commence with the filing of a Petition for Arbitration on a form approved by the Commission [and paying the appropriate filing fee as established by the {highest court of the jurisdiction}]. Any person who is not the client of the lawyer but who has paid or may be liable for the lawyer's fees may consent to be joined by the client as a party to the arbitration. The Petition for Arbitration must be signed by the client and any other party included by the client.

  2. Commission Review. The Commission will review the Petition to determine if it is properly completed and if the Commission has jurisdiction. If the Petition is not properly completed, the Commission will return it to the petitioner and specify what clarification or additional information is required. If the Commission does not have jurisdiction, the petitioner shall be so advised.

  3. Service of Petition; Response. Within [five] days of the receipt of a properly completed Petition, the Commission shall serve a copy of the Petition, along with a Fee Arbitration Response Form on the respondent. Within [twenty] days after service, the respondent shall file the completed Fee Arbitration Response Form with the Commission which shall forward a copy to all other parties. The Commission shall serve a copy of the Petition for Arbitration and a Fee Arbitration Response Form upon the law firm, if any, with which a lawyer-party is associated. If the respondent is a lawyer, the respondent shall set forth in the response the name of any other lawyer or law firm who the lawyer claims is responsible for all or part of the client's claim. Within [five] days of receipt of the response, the Commission shall serve on the lawyer(s) or law firm(s) named in the Response a copy of the Petition for Arbitration and a Fee Arbitration Response Form for completion. Within [twenty] days after service, the lawyer(s) or law firm(s) may file the completed Fee Arbitration Response Form with the Commission which shall forward a copy to all other parties.

  4. Failure of a Lawyer Respondent to Respond. Failure of a lawyer respondent to file the Fee Arbitration Response Form shall not delay the scheduling of a hearing; however, in any such case the panel may, in its discretion, refuse to consider evidence offered by the lawyer which would reasonably be expected to have been disclosed in the response.

  5. Client Consent Required. If a lawyer files a Petition for Arbitration, the arbitration shall proceed only if the client files a written consent within [thirty] days of service of the Petition.

  6. Settlement of Disputes. If the dispute giving rise to the Petition for Arbitration has been settled, upon reasonable confirmation of that settlement, the matter shall be dismissed by the Commission or by the panel if one has been assigned.

  7. Appointment of Panel. The Commission shall, within [ten] days after receipt of the Petition for Arbitration, appoint a panel and mail to the parties written notification of the name(s) of the panel member(s) assigned to hear the matter.

Comment
The fee arbitration process begins with the filing of a Petition for Arbitration on a form approved by the Commission. The respondent has twenty days after service to return the Fee Arbitration Response Form. The process is commenced either unilaterally by a client or by the lawyer with the client's consent. If it is initiated by the client, participation is mandatory on the part of the lawyer.

The Fee Arbitration Program is designed to be simple and fast. Consequently, most cases should be concluded in an average of six months.

If a lawyer fails to timely file a Fee Arbitration Response Form, the hearing will nonetheless be held in the normal course and the panel may, in its discretion, refuse to consider evidence offered by the lawyer which would reasonably be expected to have been disclosed in the Response. This is not intended as a default procedure. It will still be necessary for the panel to determine the reasonableness of the fee.

The Commission must serve a copy of the Petition and the Fee Response Form on the law firm, if any, of which a lawyer is a member. The purpose of this rule is to assure that where a law firm is due a fee, or is obligated therefor, the law firm will have notice of the arbitration and an opportunity to participate.

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