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Attorney/Client Fee Dispute Program

Has a client not paid your bill?

If your client has not responded to your several attempts to collect a past due bill and you would like to file a lawsuit or proceed under a contract that provides for arbitration or an alternative to arbitration, then you must serve your client with the State Bar of California form:

Notice of Client's Right To Arbitrate form (109KB PDFPDF)

If you wish to notify your client of their right to arbitrate, use this form. You must serve them with this form if you are filing or contemplating filing a court case to collect your fees.

You must make sure that this Notice is served to the client and that they know that they have a 30-day deadline to file for Arbitration. The 30 days begins when the client knows that they have a right to arbitrate the matter.  

If the client decided to elect arbitration, then we will notify you by mail.

If the client does not file for arbitration within the allotted time frame of 30 days, then you will have the right to file a lawsuit.


Has your client filed for Arbitration?

If your client has filed for Arbitration, your participation is mandatory and you should submit your reply by the deadline listed on the paperwork.

If you would like an electronic fillable form, please download the Attorney's Reply Form. (144KBPDFPDF)

View the Rules of Procedure (196KBPDFPDF) for more information about the process.

For a detailed description of the legal code that governs attorney/client fee disputes, see: Business and Professions Code (35KBPDFPDF)


Do you want to start the process of Fee Dispute Arbitration?

Advantages to using this Fee Dispute program:

  • Confidential
  • Convenient
  • Expedient
  • Good value
  • Subject matter expertise


  1. Please review the Rules of Procedure (196KBPDFPDF). When you decide that you want to engage our services, please download and fill out:

    Attorney's Request form (257KBPDFPDF)
    If you wish to mediate or arbitrate a fee dispute with your client, use this form.

  2. There is an administrative fee for the cost of running this program. The form you downloaded in step #1 will help you determine this fee.

    You must pay this fee when you submit your completed forms. It becomes part of the fee dispute and the arbitrator(s) will allocate responsibility for the fee as part of the award.

    You can pay by check, money order or credit card.
    • Check or Money Order: Make checks or money orders payable to BASF / Fee Dispute Program.
    • Credit Card: If you wish to use a credit card, please download and complete the:
      Client Attorney Credit Card Charge form (11KBPDFPDF).

    Fees are based on the amount in dispute:

    • If the amount is $10,000 or less, then the cost will be 5% of the amount in dispute.
    • If the amount is greater than $10,000, then the cost will be 7% of the amount in dispute.
    The filing fee caps off at $7,000 unless the total amount in dispute is one million dollars ($1,000,000) or more, in which case there is a surcharge of $250 for each million dollars or fraction thereof in excess of the first million dollars.

    See Rule 13.A. Rules of Procedure (595KBPDFPDF) for details about filing fees.

  3. Make five copies of the form you used in Step #1 and mail the original and four copies along with your administrative fee to:
    The Bar Association of San Francisco
    Fee Dispute Program
    301 Battery Street, Third Floor
    San Francisco, California 94111
  1. We then send a copy of the request and a "Reply" form to the client and request that they fill it out completely and send 5 copies to the address above in Step #3.
  1. Both you and your client have the option of going through mediation first. During mediation, both parties work together to come to a resolution that works for everyone.

    Mediation is also:
    • voluntary, and both sides must agree to it
    • less formal, and often takes less time than arbitration
    • usually four hours or less of time involved
    • offered as a benefit covered by your administrative fee

      See Mediation Rules, P. 14 Rules of Procedure (595KBPDF).
  1. If both parties agree to mediation you will be notified of your assigned mediator.

  2. The assigned mediator will contact both parties to set a mediation date.

  3. If you do not resolve your fee dispute in mediation, or if either party decides against mediation, it goes to arbitration.

  4. We will assign and notify you of the arbitrator(s) selected after determining that there is no conflict of interest. You will also be sent a "Request for Hearing Dates" form to help us set up a date that is convenient for you.

  5. Once a date is set, you must show up at the location detailed in the "Notice of Hearing" that will be mailed to you.

  6. Get prepared for your fee dispute arbitration hearing!
    Learn about what you can do to prepare for your hearing.

  7. Once the arbitrator(s) hears both sides of the story he or she takes the matter "under submission." There is no Award issued on this day. The Award will be mailed to you after a final decision has been made.

  8. When you receive the arbitration Award you will also receive Notice of Your Rights After Arbitration (500KBPDFPDF), which will inform you of your next steps.