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Frequently Asked Questions about the Attorney Client Fee Dispute Program

  1. How long does the Attorney/Client Fee Dispute process take?
  2. Who pays the fee?
  3. If I win the case can I get a refund?
  4. Do I need an attorney for the hearing?
  5. What if my attorney is in another county?
  6. What if I want to file a complaint against the attorney for misconduct?
  7. What if I need legal advice about how to proceed?
  8. How much does the amount in dispute have to be for BASF to arbitrate my case?
  9. I don't speak English, what do I do?
  10. When will I know the decision of the arbitrator(s)?
  11. Can I contact my arbitrators after the hearing?

1. How long does the Attorney/Client Fee Dispute process take?

Usually four to five months, which is less time than a court case would take.

2. Who pays the fee?

The person submitting the Petitioner’s Request form pays the entire filing fee, which then becomes part of the dispute and may be allocated differently by the arbitrators when the Award is issued.

3. If I win the case can I get a refund?

No, the fee paid to BASF covers the administrative costs of running the program. However, the arbitrator(s) can order the other side to refund some or the entire filing fee back to you.

4. Do I need an attorney for the hearing?

No, in fact, more than half of the parties use this process without an attorney representing them. Of course, you do have the right to have an attorney if you choose to.

5. What if my attorney is in another county?

Normally, BASF only hears cases with attorneys who practice in San Francisco. If the attorney is in another county, you should contact the Bar Association in that county, since most provide the same service. If your county doesn’t have a program, or if both parties prefer to come to San Francisco, BASF can take the case if both parties stipulate in writing.

6. What if I want to file a complaint against the attorney for misconduct?

You will need to contact the State Bar of California at (800) 843-9053; they are the licensing and disciplinary agency for all attorneys. Our program can only help with your dispute over the attorney's fees and/or costs.

7. What if I need legal advice about how to proceed?

We can't give legal advice in this program; contact the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) to set up a consultation with an attorney.

8. How much does the amount in dispute have to be for BASF to arbitrate my case?

We can arbitrate any amount over $1000. If the amount is less than $1000 you should call the State Bar of California at (415) 538-2020.

9. I don't speak English, what do I do?

You must find someone to help you complete the forms and attend the hearing with you; we don't provide interpreters. This can be a friend, relative or neighbor; we do not require a professional interpreter. You must notify the other side, the arbitrator(s) and BASF in writing if someone will attend the hearing with you.

10. When will I know the decision of the arbitrator(s)?

You will receive the written decision, the award, of the arbitrator(s) approximately one month after the hearing. You will not receive, or be told the decision the day of the hearing.

11. Can I contact my arbitrators after the hearing?

No, you may not contact the arbitrators for any reason after the hearing. Please write to BASF if you have a question or think there might be a problem. You must also send a copy to the attorney.