Resolve a Fee Dispute with your Lawyer
Download Fee Dispute forms here. Please read the text below carefully before submitting your dispute.
What is the fee dispute committee?
The Fee Dispute Committee of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association was created to offer members of the public an opportunity for impartial review of fee disputes with attorneys. Members of the Committee donate countless hours each year to help attorneys and clients resolve their differences, all at no cost to those participating in the process. The services of the Committee are provided as a public service and are meant to offer clients and attorneys an alternative to costly and time-consuming litigation.
What types of complaints does the committee accept?
The Committee receives complaints where a client is in dispute with his/her attorney in the Kansas City area regarding the fees the attorney has charged. The Committee cannot accept:
- Complaints over the telephone. All complaints must be made to the Fee Dispute Committee in writing.
- Cases where the fees are the subject of a lawsuit. If the client or attorney has filed a lawsuit regarding the fees, the Committee cannot review the complaint.
- Cases where the fees are established by Court judgment. If the fees have been set by court order or are established by statute, the Committee can’t review the complaint.
- Cases where the dispute would be an ethical violation. Complaints regarding the ethical conduct of an attorney must go to The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, the office established by The Missouri Supreme Court to oversee the conduct of attorneys.
- Complaints from anyone other than the client.
- Complaints against judges. Judiciary complaints must be directed in writing to the following office:
Commission on Retirement, Removal, and Discipline of Judges
2190 S. Mason Rd., Ste. 201
St. Louis, MO 63131
- Disputes involving an attorney who practices outside of the Kansas City area. For more information, see below.
- Due to the voluntary nature of the program, if either party is unwilling to participate with the Fee Dispute Resolution Committee, the file will be closed as unresolved.
What should I do before filing a fee dispute?
You are encouraged to directly discuss the fee with your lawyer. In all fairness, the lawyer should be given the opportunity to explain the fee. A frank discussion also can very often bring a satisfactory result for all parties. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the Fee Dispute Committee offers an alternative to a law suit.
How do I file a complaint?
The Committee requires that all fee disputes be filed by the client in writing. You may use the Fee Dispute Resolution Form available as a PDF file or submit a written complaint to the Committee that contains the following information:
- A summary of the events. In your own words, tell the Committee why you disagree with the attorney’s charges. Try to provide as much information as possible.
- Provide your name, address and daytime telephone number. Be sure to tell the Committee, in writing if you move or change your telephone number. Members of the Committee may need to contact you for additional information.
- Provide the name, address and telephone number of the attorney. The attorney will be contacted by the Committee and asked to answer your complaint.
- Copies of any documents that you feel support your position. If you have documents (fee contracts, correspondence, billing statements, etc.) that you wish to provide, make sure that you keep the originals and send only copies. The Committee does not return file materials.
Your letter should be sent to:
The Fee Dispute Committee
The Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
2300 Main St., Suite 100
Kansas City, MO 64108
What happens after I send my letter?
Once a letter of complaint is received, a copy is sent to the attorney, who is asked to respond to the Committee within 15 business days. At the end of that time, if the attorney has responded, the materials are reviewed by the chairman of the committee. The Chairman may either make a determination at that point or assign the matter to a volunteer investigator. If the Chairman makes a determination, both parties will be notified in writing and that will end the Committee’s process. Volunteer Investigators are attorneys who donate their time to the Committee. If assigned a fee dispute, investigators gather additional information. If both parties are willing, the volunteer investigator may elect to act as a mediator to resolve the dispute. Once the investigation is completed, a report is sent to the Chairman with the investigator’s recommendations.
The Chairman can at that point either make a determination or assign the matter to a panel hearing. If the Chairman makes a determination, both parties will be notified in writing.
If the dispute is assigned to a panel hearing, both parties will be notified by mail of a hearing date and time. The Fee Dispute Panel consists of three volunteer attorneys who did not investigate the case. Both parties appear before the Panel and are given the opportunity to discuss their position with the Panel and provide any additional information to the Panel and respond to any information provided by the other party. When possible, the Panel may attempt to mediate the dispute or provide arbitration. After hearing from both parties, the Panel issues a written recommendation, which is sent to both parties.
Any recommendations issued by the Committee, the Chairman or a Fee Dispute Panel are non-binding. Both parties are free to accept or refuse any recommendations made by the Committee, the Chairman or a Fee Dispute Panel. Participation in the Committee’s process is completely voluntary for both parties, and is not legally enforceable.
Disputes outside the Kansas City area:
KCMBA’s Committee on Fee Dispute Resolution is only able to accept and review complaints made against attorney’s practicing in our service territory, which includes Cass, Clay, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Platte, and Ray counties in Missouri, and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas. If your attorney is not based in one of these counties, please direct your complaint to one of the following offices, depending on location:
Fee Dispute Resolution Program
Kansas Bar Association
P.O. Box 1037
Topeka, KS 66601
Fee Dispute Resolution Program
The Missouri Bar
P.O. Box 119
Jefferson City, MO 65102
For questions or concerns, please contact Ashley Williamson or Kim Elrod at 816-474-4322.