by John L. Mlnarik
The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.
2015 SCCBA President
This time of year we are celebrating at many dinners and events. It is a time to honor those who have served us well and a time to give thanks for all we have.
For most of us it is also a time to close out the year and perhaps collect from clients who have not paid. As unappealing as collections may be, they are a reality all of us in private practice must face. Thankfully, the Santa Clara County Bar Association administers a Fee Arbitration Program and maintains a panel of experienced arbitrators.
For several decades, the SCCBA has been providing resources to attorneys and clients to help guide them through the process of resolving their fee disputes no matter how big or how small. The parties may decide to go to mediation before proceeding to arbitration and once at arbitration the parties can agree to make the arbitrator’s decision final.
As most attorneys are aware, notice to the client of arbitration of a fee dispute is statutorily mandated before the attorney can proceed to collect fees through litigation. If the client seeks fee arbitration, the attorney is required to participate. The attorney may initiate fee arbitration as well although the client is under no obligation to agree to the arbitration. In that situation, the attorney may then proceed to file a complaint against the client seeking his/her outstanding attorney fees. The SCCBA Fee Arbitration Program is easy for the client to navigate without the assistance of an attorney. The filing fees for initiating an arbitration are reasonable and often lower than other private arbitration programs.
The process takes about three months and may be the quickest way to resolve a fee dispute. The matter could even settle before getting to arbitration as the parties take a better look at the positions they have been taking before submitting their disagreement to fee arbitration.
A list of frequently asked questions is available on the SCCBA website at www.sccba.com along with links to forms and other useful documents.
As you celebrate this year be thankful for all the many wonderful blessings we have received. And if collections have you worried, have no fear, fee arbitration is here!