Fee Arbitration Rules
- Committee. The Fee Arbitration Committee of the Toledo Bar Association consists of a Chair and Secretary or Vice-Chair as determined and appointed by the President, and volunteer members of the Toledo Bar Association appointed by the President in consultation with the Chair. The President may, but need not, appoint nonlawyers to be members.
- Filing and Notice. Upon notice from the Grievance Committee, the Grievance Screening Committee, Bar Counsel, or other appropriate source that a dispute regarding legal fees exists, a letter of notification will be sent to the parties that such a complaint has been filed. The client will be requested to sign a “Consent and Agreement” form agreeing to binding arbitration, with no right of appeal. No obligation exists on the client to consent. Fee arbitration is mandatory for an attorney whose client consents. Failure of an attorney to cooperate in a fee arbitration proceeding may be considered a violation of Gov. Bar R. V(9)(G).
- Pending Litigation. TBA fee arbitration will not be mandatory if litigation between the parties is pending before the fee dispute first comes to the attention of the TBA, or if fee arbitration is required by another forum, e.g. Workers Compensation. A lawyer may not file a suit after receiving notice of a referral for fee arbitration. Litigation started after a fee dispute has been presented to the TBA may be stayed pending arbitration.
- Hearing Scheduling. When a signed Consent and Agreement form is received from the client, the Bar Counsel will attempt to determine the amount in dispute, will set the matter for hearing before a regularly scheduled meeting of the Committee, and will notify the parties. At any meeting, the full Committee may act as a hearing panel or the Committee Chair may divide the Committee into two or more hearing panels, each of which shall consist of at least three members of the Committee. One member will be designated as Chair of each panel. A majority of each panel shall be lawyers. If fewer than three members appear for the hearing, the parties may consent to proceed with the members present or may reschedule.
- Settlements. Negotiated settlements and compromises are encouraged, and the parties may agree to settle their dispute at any time prior to the conclusion of the hearing.
- Hearings. At the hearing, the parties may introduce any testimony, including that of witnesses, documents, or other evidence supporting their positions. The panel members may ask questions to gain a full and complete understanding of the nature and extent of the dispute. No cross-examination by one party of the other party or the other party’s witnesses is allowed. The parties are asked to limit their presentation to thirty minutes. Hearings are usually held at the Bar Association offices at noon and are completed by 1:30 p.m.
- Counsel. Parties may have their own attorneys present at the hearing to assist them in presenting their positions, but it is not necessary and in fact not encouraged.
- Evidence. There are no formal rules of evidence. The panel will consider all relevant information to give the panel a complete understanding of the nature of the dispute as it relates to fees charged.
- Decision and Award. Following the hearing, the panel meets immediately to reach a decision based upon a majority agreement of the panel. A written decision is then prepared and signed by the Chair of the panel, or Bar Counsel on behalf of the Chair of the panel, and distributed to the parties by mail within ten days. Copies are sent to the Chair of the Committee and to Bar Counsel. There is no right to appeal the decision.
- Small Disputes. If the Chair or Bar Counsel determines that the amount of a fee dispute is less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000), the Chair may order that the matter be heard and determined by a single member of the Committee, acting as a sole arbitrator. The hearing on a small dispute may be scheduled at any time reasonably convenient to the arbitrator and the parties. The Committee will not generally hear disputes under Two Hundred Dollars ($200).
- Large or Complex Disputes. With the consent of both parties, the Chair may assign any case to a special panel of three arbitrators, appointed by the Chair, if the Chair determines that the complexity or size of the case warrants it, or for other good cause. A special panel hearing may be scheduled at any time reasonably convenient to the panel and the parties.
- Effect. The decision is a final determination by binding arbitration as to the amount owed by one party to the other. It may be enforced in a court of law under O.R.C. Chapter 2711. By signing the consent and agreement form the client is consenting to such a result.
- Collection. The Committee has no control over when or how the fee or refund is to be collected by the party to whom it is owed.
- Authority. Fee Arbitration is part of an Alternative Dispute Resolution program adopted by the Toledo Bar Association under Gov. Bar Rule V(5) and regulations thereunder. The authority of the Fee Arbitration Committee is limited to determining the amount of the fee or refund. The hearing panel may consider the quality of the services rendered and anything else that impacts on the fee. The Committee does not make any decisions regarding possible legal malpractice. If, during the course of the hearing, a possibility of unethical behavior by the attorney arises, the fee arbitration will cease and the matter will be referred to the Toledo Bar Association Certified Grievance Committee.
The Fee Arbitration Committee provides a method of resolving attorney fee disputes. The Committee does not accept email filings. To register a complaint, download the form, print, sign and mail to the Toledo Bar Association, 311 N. Superior Street, Toledo OH 43604.