Problems With Your Lawyer's Bill?

If you are not happy with the attorney you hired, and are unable to settle a fee dispute with your attorney, the San Diego County Bar Association offers the following program.

Attorney Client Fee Dispute Program

What is Attorney Client Fee Dispute? 

Are you and your lawyer having a disagreement about his fees? Have you tried to resolve it, but can't? The San Diego County Bar Association may be able to help. This program provides a means for attorneys and clients to resolve a fee dispute and avoid time and expense of taking a dispute to court. 

The Bar sponsors a fee dispute arbitration program, which can be an efficient and effective alternative to litigation in the resolution of fee disputes between attorneys and clients. The arbitration process normally takes four to six months. 

Arbitration provides a fair, speedy and impartial determination of the facts, as presented by both parties. Each party submits a statement of fact prior to a hearing before the arbitrator. During the hearing, the arbitrator, acting as referee, will ask questions and allow for each party to do the same. After the hearing, the arbitrator will render a decision based on the statements of fact and the hearing. 

The San Diego County Bar Association's fee dispute arbitration program will consider cases only if the attorney involved in the dispute has an office in San Diego County or if the majority of services were performed in San Diego County.

The filing fee for the fee dispute arbitration program is 5% of the amount in dispute and not less than Seventy –five dollars ($75.00) and not more that Five Thousand dollars ($5,000.00). The filing fee includes up to three hours of arbitration time from our panel of experts. If more time is needed, there will be an additional fee. 

We can only accept payment of the filing fee in the form of  a money order or cashier’s check only, made payable to San Diego County Bar Association.  Please note: Credit Cards, Cash & Checks will not be accepted.


I.  Please review the San Diego County Bar Association's Fee Arbitration Committee Local Rules (PDF).   

When you decide that you want engage in our services, please download the PDF’s and fill out the forms that apply to your case.

II.  Please complete all forms and return the following:  

  1. Sign and date the Arbitration Agreement (original Signatures only, no photocopies).
  2. Complete and sign the Application for Arbitration. You may attach copies of documents if you wish, but no originals.
  3. Complete the Applicant's Statement of Facts. Submit your statement of facts and any attachments in duplicate (1- original copy and 1-copy). You may support your statement with exhibits, such as letters and bills. If the documents are over 50 pages, we require that they be put on a flash drive and submitted.  Return all forms and payments to:
    San Diego County Bar Association
    Attn: Fee Arbitration Department
    401 West A Street, Ste. 1100
    San Diego, CA 92101

    * We must have all required documents, copies, signed forms and payments before we can open an arbitration case. 

    P lease note that we do not have walk-in service. Documents or files will not beaccepted at the SDCBA offices on the 11th floor. You will be directed to the SDCBA mail box on the Parking Lot level 1 to deposit your documents. Please note that the mail box is similar to a postal box. If you have large documents or files, please arrange for them to be sent via courier.

    We do accept documents via US Mail, Federal Express or courier.  However, please do not send documents with signature required. We cannot guarantee that we will accept or be available to sign for documents. It will be your responsibility to check with the program to see if your documents have been received.

III. Once all documents and filing fees are received, SDCBA will send a copy of your complaint to the other party and request a “Reply”. 

IV. Once the other party has responded, we will assign and notify you of the arbitrator(s) selected after determining that there is not a conflict of interest.

V. Once a date is set, you must show up at the location detailed in the “Notice of hearing” that is mailed to you.

VI.  Get prepared for your fee dispute arbitration hearing.
Learn what to do to prepare for your hearing. SEE-Preparing for the Fee Arbitration Hearing.

VII. Once the arbitrator(s) hears both sides he/she will take the “matter” under submission.

There is no award decision made on the day of the hearing. The Awards and Findings will be mailed to you within 30 days of your hearing. 

Please note that the completion of arbitration normally takes four to six months depending on the co-operation of both parties. 

If you'd like additional information on the fee dispute arbitration program, contact the Bar at (619) 231-0781 or via e-mail at