Filing for fee arbitration against your lawyer: I can’t

Today I got a call from the New York County Lawyers Association, where I had filed a Client Request for Fee Arbitration in May, 2012, with the Joint Committee on Fee Disputes and Conciliation.

The woman who called me was knowledgeable and succinct.

But she told me that my request could not be heard by the Joint Committee, which does not arbitrate personal injury cases — that is, contingency cases. I hadn’t known that; the Joint Committee lady told me it was in their rules, which I’d thought I’d read pretty thoroughly. Indeed, now that I’m looking at their rules, I realize that the wording did not ring out to me, given that it doesn’t say “contingency.”

I think “disputes where the fee to be paid by the client has been determined by statute or rule and allowed as of right by a court, or where the fee has been determined by a court order;” is the rule she mentioned.

However, that is that for the Joint Committee. I did discuss with the nice woman what I had done, i.e., filed a complaint in the Disciplinary Committee, and when I described briefly what the problem was — I hadn’t received my settlement and was disputing the costs and disbursements Dinkes & Schwitzer intend to charge me — she commented that it was definitely a Disciplinary Committee matter.

But. I still don’t have my settlement and now I’m not sure how I’m going to get it. The nice lady said that I could file a pro se (DIY) action in Supreme Court and worried a little about the difficulty of doing it. But I assured her I had no similar worry: if that’s what I need to do, I’ll do it.

I’ll think about this for a day or so and then figure this out. And of course I’ll let you know what I find out and what I decide.

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