Bar Counsel Notes: Fee Issues
In a fee dispute matter, Attorney X has a former client that he provided the required 30-day notice of "right to arbitrate" pursuant to M. Bar R. 7(d)(6). Attorney then filed a civil collection action against the former client. Prior to service of that civil complaint on the client, Attorney X received a notice of fee arbitration filed by the client after X had filed the lawsuit. Can Attorney X now make service of that complaint on his former client?
Yes. The civil collection proceeding concerning enforcement of the fee agreement should proceed normally until the fee petitioner (the former client) files a motion for a stay of that proceeding pursuant to M. Bar R. 7(d)(2). Attorney X commenced the civil action in compliance with the M. R. Civ. P. and the related notice requirement of M. Bar R. 7(d)(6). Thus, Attorney X is permitted to commence service upon the former client as required by those rules. The client may then request that the court impose a stay of the civil action thereby substituting dispute resolution in the Fee Arbitration Commission process.
*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.