No-cost fee mediation — could it help you and a client?

The Law Society offers an informal fee mediation service as an alternative to a fee review.

The fee mediation program is now available at no cost to either lawyer or client and is voluntary. It is an accessible and less formal way of resolving a fee dispute and can be an attractive option for lawyers and clients.

Either the lawyer or client can request a mediation by completing and submitting an application to the Law Society. After checking to see if both are agreeable to mediation, the Society will appoint an independent, neutral mediator from its roster. The fee mediation roster is made up of lawyer and non-lawyer mediators who receive a very small honorarium from the Society for conducting a mediation. The views of the lawyer and client who will participate in the mediation are taken into consideration on selection of the mediator.

Once appointed, the mediator will independently contact the lawyer and client to arrange a mediation of up to three hours. The form of mediation — such as face-to-face discussions or telephone meetings — will be up to the mediator and participants. The mediator will encourage the lawyer and the client to explore their interests, develop and consider potential options for resolution based on those interests and try to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

The Law Society is advised whether or not the mediation is successful for the purpose of monitoring the program overall.

The mediation is on a “without prejudice” basis. This means that anyone who agrees to participate in the program admits nothing more than a willingness to participate and any negotiations during the fee mediation process cannot be used in evidence in any subsequent proceedings, including a court proceeding or fee review by a Registrar of the Supreme Court of BC.

Participation in the fee mediation program is entirely voluntary. Neither the client nor the lawyer is in any way obliged to participate and either can withdraw from the mediation at any time.

Because the results of a fee mediation are not binding on the parties, fee review remains open after fee mediation if either party wishes to pursue it, provided the matter has not been settled and the time limit for applying for the review has not expired. The fee mediation service is only available if the fees have not already been subject to a fee review.

If you are interested in learning more or making an application for a mediation, please contact the Law Society.