Byron D. Brown


Arbitration is an effective method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in resolving a disagreement between an attorney and client over legal fees. The arbitration proceeding offers benefits for both lawyers and clients. Attorneys avoid having to sue a former client for a delinquent bill and face the very real possibility of a malpractice counterclaim. The client, on the other hand, avoids the aggravation of retaining another counsel to defend the suit. Mandatory fee arbitration, as established by the Alaska Supreme Court, places the decision to submit to arbitration squarely in the client's hands. Once the client chooses arbitration, the attorney is obligated to proceed and the client gives up the right to sue in court. Arbitration is expedient, preserves client confidentiality, and offers an impartial forum including attorney as well as lay members. Attorneys have challenged the compulsory nature of mandatory fee arbitration on such constitutional grounds as denial of due process. This article argues that the advantages of mandatory fee arbitration significantly outweigh its disadvantages, and that it should be more widely adopted by state supreme courts or legislatures as one way in which to bolster public perception of the legal profession.



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