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) through mediation or arbitration.  Our program volunteers include 11 circuit chairs, 160 arbitrators and 48 mediators.

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

The following efforts were made in FY17-18 to promote and encourage use of the RFD program:

  • On October 13, 2017, committee members Kathryn Byler, Mary Lynn Tate and Alan Anderson, along with Ethics Counsel Jim McCauley, presented a one hour CLE at the Solo and Small-Firm Practitioner Forum in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  The program was well-received by the approximately 85 attendees.
  • The RFD program administrator hosted a webinar training on October 24, 2017, for the circuit chairs.  The webinar included review of the program rules followed by open discussion among the chairs of issues that arise during oversight of a case.
  • On March 9, 2018, committee chair Kathryn Byler and committee member/circuit chair Edward Whitlock presented a one-half hour CLE at the Bar Leaders Institute.  The presentation generated program interest among the bar leaders in attendance, and resulted in a request for RFD CLE to be presented at the Norfolk-Portsmouth Bar Association later this year.
  • The June issue of Virginia Lawyer ran a featured article on the RFD program entitled “Let’s Talk about the Elephant in the Room.”
  • We continue to run RFD “ads” in Virginia Lawyer and in other VSB section and conference publications/newsletters when possible.
  • Circuit committee 17 was reestablished and combined with circuit committee 18.  Alan Anderson serves as the chair of this combined circuit committee.
  • Circuits 9 and 15 were combined to establish a new circuit committee 9/15.  Committee member Robert Stenzhorn agreed to chair this newly-established circuit committee.

The VSB RFD received 221 requests for information during fiscal year 2017-2018. 

Of those 221 requests:

  • Petitioners returned 103 agreements to circuit chairs for processing (86 from clients, 17 from attorneys);
  • 45 of those agreements were accepted by the respondent;
  • 24 attorney respondents declined to participate;
  • 13 cases were settled prior to mediation or arbitration; and
  • 34 cases went to FRD:  28 cases are complete (15 mediations and 13 arbitrations) and 6 are pending (5 mediations and 1 arbitration).

Geographical breakdown of requests:

  • 16% were for attorneys practicing in eastern Virginia (circuits 2, 3/4);
  • 51% were for attorneys practicing in NOVA (circuits 16, 17/18, 19, 31);
  • 23% were for attorneys practicing in central Virginia (circuits 9/15, 12/13/14); and
  • 10% were for attorneys practicing in south/southwestern Virginia (circuits 10, 23, 24, 28).

The committee continues to seek ways to encourage member participation and to publicize and promote the RFD at VSB-related events. 

Committee members for 2017-2018 were Kathryn N. Byler, chair, Steven G. Owens, vice chair, Alan S. Anderson, Caroline E. Browder, William B. Kilduff, David A. McKelvey, Robert P. Stenzhorn, Thomas Gallagher and John J. Mable. 

The VSB and RFD Committee would like to thank Kathryn Byler and William Kilduff for their six years of service on the RFD Committee.

Updated: Sep 10, 2018