Resolution of Fee Disputes

Kathryn N. Byler, Chair

The Virginia State Bar resolution of fee dispute program (RFD) was created as a voluntary program to help attorneys and clients resolve disputes over fees and costs paid, charged, or claimed for legal services provided by a member of the Virginia State Bar (VSB). The program achieves this goal by providing two options—mediation and binding arbitration.  Parties who choose the mediation process but who do not reach a satisfactory conclusion may still utilize the binding arbitration process.

The RFD program benefits VSB members and the public by reducing needless litigation, spurious bar complaints, and Clients’ Protection Fund petitions. 

During FY2016-17, the VSB made efforts to make the RFD more robust:

  • The RFD coordinator contacted RFD circuit committee chairs to assess volunteer needs. 
  • In the fall, VSB conducted fee dispute training in Richmond, Roanoke, Fairfax, and Norfolk with approximately 100 trainees in attendance.  Due to new training, volunteer interest has increased, the VSB is in the process of reinstating a former circuit committee that dissolved due to lack of volunteers, and the VSB has added volunteer arbitrators and mediators to those circuits in need of additional volunteers.
  • The VSB has applied term limits for volunteer arbitrators, mediators, and circuit chairs, to align with those of similar VSB committee volunteer requirements.

The VSB RFD received 212 requests for information during fiscal year 2016-2017. 

Out of those 212 requests:

  • Petitioners returned 86 agreements to circuit chairs for processing (64 from clients, 22 from attorneys);*
  • 39 of those agreements were accepted by the respondent;
  • 13 attorney respondents declined to participate;
  • 11 cases were settled prior to mediation or arbitration; and
  • 31 cases went to FRD:  18 cases are complete (9 mediations and 9 arbitrations) and 13 are pending (8 mediations and 5 arbitrations).

(*Note:  Report includes half year stats for circuit 2)

Geographical breakdown of requests:

  • 22% were for attorneys practicing in eastern Virginia (circuits 2, 3/4);
  • 44% were for attorneys practicing in NOVA (circuits 16, 18, 19, 31);
  • 23% were for attorneys practicing in central Virginia (circuits 12/13/14); and
  • 11% were for attorneys practicing in south/southwestern Virginia (circuits 10, 23, 24, 28).

The VSB continues to seek ways to encourage VSB member participation and to publicize and promote the RFD at VSB-related events, including the Solo & Small Firm Practitioner Forums, Bar Leaders Institute, VSB-sponsored CLEs, through local bars, and other events. 

Committee members for 2016-2017 were Kathryn N. Byler, chair, Carolyn M. Grimes, vice chair, Caroline E. Browder, William B. Kilduff, David A. McKelvey, Alexander N. Simon, Robert P. Stenzhorn, Yvonne S. Berry, and Thomas Gallagher.

Updated: Oct 05, 2017