Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply?

 Complete a Request for Arbitration or Mediation. The Bar will mail you a form upon request.

Who do I call?

Call the Consumer Assistance Program at (601) 948-2344. You can also send a written request to the Consumer Assistance Program at Post Office Box 2168, Jackson, MS 39225-2168.

What is the cost?

The Fee Dispute program is free of cost to each party. The Arbitrator/Mediator is donating his or her time to help the parties resolve their differences.

What should I include in my fee dispute request form?

We need:

1. your name and full address
2. the lawyer's full name and address
3. the type of case you had (divorce, criminal, personal injury, etc.)
4. the total amount of fees charged
5. the amount of fees you feel are excessive
6. a brief explanation of why you feel the fees are excessive
7. the name and full address of any witness
8. copies of pertinent documents

We DON'T need: 

1. original documents of any kind (originals are not returned)
2. stapled documents (we scan everything you send)
3. bound documents

Is the lawyer required to participate in the fee dispute program?

No. Neither party is required to use the program. It is an alternative to going to court. Therefore, the client and the lawyer must both agree to use the program.

Mediation? What is that?

Mediation is a process where a trained third party acts as a "go between" to get the client and the lawyer to come to a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. If both parties agree to settle, their agreement is reduced to writing and they can enforce the agreement in court. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, they are free to go to arbitration or go to court.

Arbitration? What is that?

Arbitration is essentially a judicial proceeding before a private judge known as an arbitrator. In arbitration, each side puts on its evidence just as they would in court. The arbitrator then considers the evidence and renders a decision which is binding on both parties.

What is the difference between a fee dispute and a Bar complaint?

The main difference between fee disputes and Bar complaints is the purpose of each. The fee dispute process is designed to resolve conflicts between clients and lawyers about the amount of fees the attorney has earned and for which the client is obligated to pay. The Bar complaint process is designed to impose discipline on an attorney for violations of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct. By rule, the Fee Dispute Committee has no jurisdiction to hear a fee dispute that involves a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Likewise, a Bar complaint will not resolve of a fee dispute.

How long does the fee dispute process take?

Like many things, it depends. After the petition is submitted to the Office of General Counsel, a letter and an agreement is sent to both the client and the lawyer. Once each has indicated they are willing to participate in mediation or arbitration, the case is assigned to a mediator or arbitrator. The assigned mediator or arbitrator will then contact the parties and start the actual mediation or arbitration. After an agreement is reached or the arbitration is decided, the parties are notified of the result.

Is there an actual trial or hearing?

There may or may not be an actual formal mediation or arbitration session, depending on the circumstances. It is up to the mediator or arbitrator to determine whether a formal session is needed.

The lawyer did not agree to arbitrate or mediate. What do I do next?

The Committee is an alternative to court. If the parties don't mutually agree to either mediate or arbitrate, the case is dismissed. The parties are encouraged to seek legal advice from another attorney about options in the fee dispute process, which may include suing the other party in court.

What should I do before I file a fee dispute?

Before you file a fee dispute, you should try to resolve the fee dispute directly with the lawyer. The lawyer has likely performed work of which you were unaware. For example, the lawyer may have investigated the facts of the case, researched the law of the case, and drafted various documents related to the case. In the event you are unable to speak with the lawyer, you should make a written request to the lawyer in which you ask him or her to provide a written report of work performed on the case. Your request should include a deadline by which the lawyer should respond - usually within week or ten days of the date the lawyer received the request. Send your request by certified mail, return receipt requested or by other means that will demonstrate the date and time the lawyer actually received the request (federal express and UPS offer such a service, for example).