Legal Question in Legal Malpractice in California

Is arbitration required?

I hired an attorney to provide specific services.

She failed to provide these services.

Her fee agreement provides that all disputes, including breach of contract, will be settled by binding arbitration. However, I believe California law provides that the client be offered nonbinding arbitration for all fee disputes unless s/he agrees to binding arbitration after the dispute arises. Since the services were not provided, the obvious remedy is a refund. Am I obligated to arbitrate the dispute? Can I opt to file suit instead?

Also, the same attorney provided other services not contracted for (another billing opportunity). I did not ask her to provide these services, and such services were not reasonably necessary in connection with any services that I actually hired her to provide. In fact, the additional services actually interfered with the performance of the services covered by the fee agreement. They were performed without my knowledge or permission, and I asked her to stop as soon as I found out.

She would like to be paid for the additional services. Same question--are such additional services covered by the fee agreement for the services I actually hired her to provide?

Asked on 8/16/06, 12:17 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Sharon Green Sharon Green, Lawyer
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Re: Is arbitration required?

With respect to the services not covered by the contract, depending on the county where the services were rendered, the county bar association should have a fee dispute resolution panel. Check with your county bar association.

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Answered on 8/17/06, 2:17 pm
Joel Selik
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Re: Is arbitration required?

See Business and Professions Code Section 6200 which states in part:

"(c) Unless the client has agreed in writing to arbitration under this article of all disputes concerning fees, costs, or both, arbitration under this article shall be voluntary for a client and shall be mandatory for an attorney if commenced by a client. Mediation under this article shall be voluntary for an attorney and a client."

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Answered on 8/16/06, 5:56 pm

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