Fee Dispute Resolution
From time to time disputes occur between a client and attorney relating to attorneys fees. Ideally, a lawyer and client will reach an agreement about the lawyer's fees before the work is begun, and that agreement will be adequate for the length of the case. If a problem does arise, the Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) Fee Dispute Resolution Committee can help to resolve the fee dispute. The Committee's services extend to all attorneys who practice in Knoxville and the contiguous counties, not just members of the KBA.
The Committee is made up of attorneys and lay persons. The decision of the Committee is non-binding, meaning that neither the KBA, nor the Committee, has the authority to enforce the Committee’s decision by legal action.The services of the Committee are free. Any client may register a fee complaint against his or her attorney. The process of resolving the complaint depends on the cooperation between the client and the attorney. Without cooperation, there is little the Committee can do.
In order to participate, the following standards must be met:
- Both parties must agree to participate. Neither party can be forced to do so.
- Related correspondence, including billing statements, fee agreements and communications should accompany the complaint form.
- If there is a complaint currently pending with the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Committee may not be able to assist with the dispute.
|When does the Committee dismiss complaints?
Once the fee dispute complaint form has been filed with the KBA, a copy of the complaint form and any accompanying materials will be sent to the attorney for a written response. The Committee reviews the written submissions and follows up with the parties with any additional questions. A hearing is not typically held. The fee dispute process from the initiation of the complaint through its review will typically last two to six months. The parties will be notified in writing once the Committee issues an opinion.
The Committee will only consider the matter of fees and not consider any ethical complaints the client has against the attorney. Complaints about an attorney’s conduct or possible ethical violations should be filed through the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Other than what has been submitted to the Committee by the attorneys and the client, the Committee does not know the facts of the case. The Committee does not have the authority to second-guess the length of time it took to resolve the matter or the amount of expenses incurred. The Committee will not have sufficient information to reconstruct each action taken by the attorney and the client during the entire period of representation but bases its decision on experience, common sense, the Rules of Professional Conduct, decisions of the courts and ethics opinions.
Please review the Policies very carefully before submitting this form. Any supporting documentation may be attached at the end of the form or mailed to the attention of Marsha Watson, KBA Executive Director at 505 Main Street, Suite 50, P.O. Box 2027, Knoxville, TN 37901-2027.