Lawyers are required to comply with certain procedures before they can sue a client for fees. They must give a client notice of their right to arbitrate. This procedure is known as Mandatory Fee Arbitration. It is mandatory for the attorney, voluntary for the client. It can be binding or advisory depending on what the parties agree to.
A client who is unhappy with the charges or billing practices of counsel has this mechanism available to him or her in which to air their differences and reach a resolution of their dispute. No lawyers are required.
Unconscionable and illegal fees are prohibited. Unconscionable means they are so far out of the realm of reasonable as to “shock the conscience”. Some fees are restricted by statute or code such as in medical malpractice, federal tort claims, and other areas of the law.
Lawyers are required to write their agreements a certain way and to send billings when requested. Their failure to do either may result in their only being entitled to a “reasonable fee” under the legal doctrine known as Quantum Meruit instead of the contracted-for fee.
Many disputes are resolved in Mediation, where a third party listens and tries to convey the positions of the sides and move them toward a compromised resolution instead of someone else making a decision, which is what happens in arbitration.
Even a person paying for the fees of another is entitled to a notice of right to arbitrate just like the client.