For unresolved fee controversies between attorney and client, arbitration or mediation may offer an appropriate forum for resolution. This is particularly true if the reasonableness of a fee or the costs on a file case are questioned. The state bar association is the best place to start, and may be able to provide either an arbitration forum, or a list of private arbitrators and mediators skilled in this area. Finally, it should be noted that unhappiness with the costs or fees charged by the attorney does not necessarily mean that the charges were unreasonable. If the possibility of high costs was communicated to the client in advance, along with the amount and type of fee, the client’s chance of prevailing at arbitration are slim.
Sometimes, as in personal injury cases, a client agrees to the fee and anticipated costs (e.g., for medical expert witnesses) and subsequently prevails at trial, but the verdict or award is less than anticipated. A good attorney may be willing to attempt to negotiate a reduced charge from the expert witnesses, along with some reduction in the attorney fee. However, the attorney is under no obligation to do either.