What is an attorney fee dispute?

An attorney fee dispute or any kind of fee dispute for that matter happens when a client or consumer questions the validly of charges that he or she feels the attorney or business is not entitled to.

The vast majority of fee disputes happen when two businesses or a business and a client cannot agree the billing. An attorney can provide his or her client with a list which shows the miscellaneous charges that the attorney incurred which performing legal services on the client’s behalf. Some of these expenses may not appear questionable and the client is seeking further clarification. A typical attorney fee dispute starts when the client receives his or her billing, either interim or final. The client, after studying the billing will usually contact the attorney directly with a view towards negotiating a reduction in the overall cost of services rendered. In most cases an equitable resolution is found between the two parties and there is no need for judicial intervention, however, when the parties cannot reach an agreement legal action can be taken.

Many states have set rules that pertain to a fee dispute. In almost all cases the time to bring forward a dispute is limited; this ensures fairness to both parties. In the event of a creditor/debtor arrangement, the creditor will send a bill to the debtor through the US mail, if the debtor takes offense at the amount of the bill there is usually a 30 day window in which the debtor is free to respond. If, within this time frame the debtor does not take responsive action and refuses to pay the bill this can result in an automatic judgment from the court. Withholding money that is owed legitimately while a fee dispute is ongoing is illegal. If a tenant in a rented home is seeking compensation for damage caused to his or her possessions due to a leaky roof that the landlord did not repair when asked, this is no reason to withhold the legally binding monthly rent while the dispute is being settled.

There are a number of things that are expected of attorneys for them to expect their fees to be paid without dispute.

  • Attorneys should only charge for professional legal judgment and not for an inflated staff or other vague services which are non-legal in nature.

  • Clients should not have to pay for ongoing overhead of the law firm.

  • It is incumbent on the attorney to ensure the client fully understands all billings and charges.

  • Clients should only expect to pay for efficient representation; the firm should not bill the rate of a high priced attorney for a task that can be done by a clerk for example.

There should be no need for an attorney fee dispute when the attorney bills transparently, reasonably and ethically for their services.

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