Fee Arbitration

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Are you having a dispute with your attorney over fees? We may be able to help. The Santa Barbara County Bar Association's Fee Arbitration Program allows clients and lawyers to settle fee disputes in an out-of-court hearing.
Your dispute can be arbitrated if at least one of the attorneys involved has an office in Santa Barbara County or maintained an office in Santa Barbara County at the time the services were rendered.

A neutral arbitrator(s) will listen to what the Client and the Attorney have to say, review the facts and decide on the appropriate attorney's fees. Arbitration hearings are informal. You may be represented by an attorney, but it is not necessary. The Client and the Lawyer will both have an opportunity to make statements, ask each other questions and present evidence such as letters or the fee agreement. You may also present witnesses. Please note that the objective of Fee Arbitration is to determine if the fee amount is appropriate for the lawyer’s work on the particular case. For additional information regarding Fee Arbitration, please contact the Santa Barbara County Bar Association at (805) 569-5511.
If you wish to file a complaint against your attorney over issues not specifically related to attorney fees and costs, please contact the State Bar of California at (800) 843-9053 or visit the website at www.calbar.org and follow the links to Public Services/Filing a Complaint Against an Attorney.
You can request a Fee Arbitration online by clicking here.

Summary of Process

  1. Your attorney should have provided you a notice of your right to arbitration (See Form 2)
  2. Review the following to determine if you would like to pursue arbitration (See All Forms except those relating to after arbitration)
  3. Complete and submit Form 3 with the required fee (online or hardcopy)
  4. You will be contacted to finish intake and setup hearing
  5. Attend hearing
  6. Receive decision
  7. Enforce decision if necessary

Non-binding vs Binding Arbitration
What is the difference between NON-BINDING and BINDING arbitration? NON-BINDING is an arbitration in which the award of the arbitrator is advisory. However, it will become binding if one of the parties does not file an action or other proceeding with the proper court within 30 days after the arbitration award has been served. BINDING is an arbitration in which the award of the arbitrator(s) is final and binding on the parties. There are very limited grounds for overturning a binding award. Under Business & Professions Code 6200, the parties may agree in writing to BINDING arbitration AFTER a dispute over fees, costs, or both has arisen. This means that the client/petitioner has the choice between non-binding or binding arbitration at the time of filing for fee arbitration under this program.

FA Form 1 - Santa Barbara County Bar Association Rules 2015.doc82 KB
FA Form 2 - Revised Notice of Client's Right To Fee Arbitration (rev. March 2013).pdf108.19 KB
FA Form 3 - Client's Request For Arbitration of a Fee Dispute43.5 KB
FA Form 4 - Attorney's Reply to Client's Request for Arbitration55.53 KB
FA Form 5 - Notice of Your Rights After Fee Arbitration (rev. Feb. 2012)86.25 KB
FA Form 6 - Addendum to Notice of Rights After Arbitration47.73 KB