Virginia's Judicial System

Task Force Established to Explore Fee Dispute Mediation Program

In 1993, the Virginia State Bar adopted a statewide system for the voluntary arbitration of fee disputes between attorneys and clients. It was hoped that this program would offer clients who have a genuine fee dispute with an attorney that is not egregious enough to warrant professional discipline, the opportunity to obtain resolution of the matter through a process less formal than litigation.

Over the last decade, the fee dispute arbitration program has not been utilized to the extent anticipated. A new Task Force has been established by the Virginia State Bar to evaluate the existing arbitration program and to consider the use of mediation of fee disputes as a precondition of processing a disciplinary complaint. The Task Force, chaired by Robert S. Ballou Esq., divided itself into three sections to study the following questions:

  1. Should mediation be added as part of the Fee Dispute Resolution process?

    This sub-committee will gather information from persons who have made inquiries to the Bar regarding resolution of fee disputes over the past two years and try to determine why these inquiries typically do not mature into arbitration under the current program. Also, the subcommittee will survey the Bar to determine its perspective on the limited use of the arbitration program. The subcommittee will consider the drawbacks of the current process and evaluate whether a more user-friendly dispute resolution process like mediation may be more effective.

  2. How can the Bar increase participation in its alternative fee dispute resolution process?

    This subcommittee will study how to develop procedures to increase the meaningful participation by lawyers and clients in a fee dispute process. The subcommittee will consider issues including mandatory mediation/arbitration as well as procedures for creating better participation in the program, whether by rule of court or statutory structure.

  3. What interplay, if any, should exist between the disciplinary system and any Bar-sponsored resolution of fee dispute process?

    This subcommittee will consider the possibility of changing the rules of professional conduct or the rules for handling disciplinary complaints to encompass referrals of matters for possible arbitration/mediation of fee dispute issues.

The Task Force will work on these issues over the next few months.

This page last modified: February 20, 2003