Georgia is one of a majority of States that demands its attorneys submit to State Bar sponsored Fee Arbitration. If the attorney and client cannot agree on the amount of the fee to be paid the lawyer, the client may petition for fee arbitration.
Generally, the public does not know and is not aware that Georgia lawyers must submit, initially, to a demand made against them pursuant to State Bar sponsored fee arbitration.
This does not mean that a dissatisfied client may taken his or her attorney to task for no reason, nor does it set aside a valid contract entered into between the attorney and client. It does, however, provide an out of court solution to many common fee disputes.
The rules are stated below. The client must file within two (2) years of the date the dispute began, the client and lawyer cannot be (at the time of filing) in court litigating the same fee and the client must agree to be bound be the result rendered at the State Bar.
An unknown novel outcome to fee arbitration is: If the client wins at fee arbitration and the lawyer refuses to pay, the State Bar of Georgia will (after the award is entered) provide the client with a free lawyer to help defend and enforce the award against the losing lawyer.
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Georgia State Bar Rule 6-201. Jurisdiction.
The Committee may accept jurisdiction over a fee dispute only if all of the following requirements are satisfied:
(a) The fee in question, whether paid or unpaid, has been charged for legal services rendered by a lawyer who is or who at the time of rendition of the service had been licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia or who been duly licensed as a foreign legal consultant in the State of Georgia.
(b) The services in question were performed either in the State of Georgia or from an office located in the State of Georgia.
(c) At the time the legal services in question were performed there existed between the lawyer and the client an expressed or implied contract establishing between them a lawyer/client relationship. A relative or other person paying the legal fees of the client may request arbitration of disputes over those fees provided both the client and the payor join as co-petitioners or co-respondents and both agree to be bound by the result of the arbitration.
(d) The disputed fee:
(1) exceeds ($750) seven hundred and fifty dollars.
(2) is not one the amount of which is governed by statute or other law, nor one the full amount or all terms of which have already been fixed or approved by order of a court.
(e) A petition seeking arbitration of the dispute is filed with the Committee by the lawyer or the client no more than two (2) years following the date on which the controversy arose. If this date is disputed, it shall be determined in the same manner as the commencement of a cause of action on the underlying contract.
(f) The client, whether petitioner or respondent, agrees to be bound by the result of the arbitration.
(g) The fee dispute is not the subject of litigation in court at the time the petition for arbitration is filed.
(h) The petition contains the following elements:
(1) A statement of the nature of the dispute and the particulars of the petitioner's position, including relevant dates.
(2) The identities of both the client and the lawyer and the addresses of both.
(3) A statement that the petitioner has made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute and the details of that effort.
(4) The agreement of the petitioner to be bound by the result of the arbitration.
(5) The signature of the petitioner and date of the petition.
(6) The petition shall be filed on a form which will be supplied by the Committee. Such petition shall be served upon the opposite party at such party's last known address by certified mail, return receipt requested.
(i) In case of disputes between lawyers, the lawyers who are parties to the dispute are all members of the State Bar of Georgia, and all the lawyers involved agree to the arbitration.
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The purpose of this program is to provide a convenient mechanism for (1) the resolution of disputes between lawyers and clients over fees, (2) the resolution of disputes between lawyers in connection with the withdrawal of a lawyer from a partnership or the dissolution and separation of a partnership, or (3) the resolution of disputes between lawyers concerning the entitlement to portions of fees earned from joint services. It is a process which may be invoked by either side after the parties have been unable to reach an agreement between themselves. Regardless of whether it is the lawyer or the client who takes the initiative of filing a petition requesting arbitration of the disputes, the petitioner must agree to be bound by the result of the arbitration. This is intended to discourage the filing of complaints which are frivolous or which seek to invoke the process simply to obtain an "advisory opinion". If the respondent also agrees to be bound, the resulting arbitration award will be enforceable under the general arbitration laws of the State.
A unique feature of this program provides that where the petitioner is a client whose claim after investigation appears to warrant a hearing, and the respondent lawyer refuses to be bound by any resulting award, the matter will not be dismissed, but an ex parte arbitration hearing may be held. If the outcome of this hearing is in the client's favor, the State Bar will provide a lawyer at no cost, other than actual litigation expenses, to the client to represent the client in subsequent litigation to adjust the fee in accordance with the arbitration award.
CHAPTER 1 COMMITTEE ON RESOLUTION OF FEE DISPUTES
Rule 6-101. Committee
Rule 6-102. Membership
Rule 6-103. Terms
Rule 6-104. Responsibility
Rule 6-105. Staff
Rule 6-106. Waiting Period
CHAPTER 2 JURISDICTIONAL GUIDELINES
Rule 6-201. Jurisdiction
Rule 6-202. Termination or Suspension of Proceedings
Rule 6-203. Revocation
CHAPTER 3 SELECTION OF ARBITRATORS
Rule 6-301. Roster of Arbitrators
Rule 6-302. Neutrality of Arbitrators
Rule 6-303. Selection of Arbitrators
Rule 6-304. Qualifications
Rule 6-305. Compensation
CHAPTER 4 RULES OF PROCEDURE
Rule 6-401. Time and Place of Hearing
Rule 6-402. Attendance at Hearing
Rule 6-403. Counsel
Rule 6-404. Stenographic Record
Rule 6-405. Death, Disability, or Resignation of Arbitrator
Rule 6-406. Discovery and Witnesses
Rule 6-407. Adjournments
Rule 6-408. Oaths
Rule 6-409. Order of Proceedings
Rule 6-410. Arbitration in the Absence of a Party
Rule 6-411. Evidence
Rule 6-412. Written Contract
Rule 6-413. Closing of Hearings
Rule 6-414. Reopening of Hearings
Rule 6-415. Waiver of Rules
Rule 6-416. Waiver of Oral Hearings
Rule 6-417. Award
Rule 6-418. Time of Award
Rule 6-419. Form of Award
Rule 6-420. Award Upon Settlement
Rule 6-421. Delivery of Award to Parties
Rule 6-422. Communication with Arbitrators
Rule 6-423. Interpretation and Application of Rules
CHAPTER 5 POST DECISION ACTIVITY
Rule 6-501. Where Both Parties Agree
Rule 6-502. Where Lawyer Refuses to be Boun
CHAPTER 6 SPECIAL PROCEDURES
Rule 6-601. Special Case Procedure
CHAPTER 7 CONFIDENTIALITY
Rule 6-701. Confidentiality
Hugh Wood, Esq.
Wood & Meredith, LLP
3756 LaVista Road
Atlanta (Tucker), GA 30084