Disputes involving fees and the Law Society Fee Mediation Program

The Law Society does not set lawyers' fees and there are no fixed rates for legal services.

If you don’t understand some of the items on your bill or if you disagree with the amount, you should first talk it over with your lawyer or the managing partner in the lawyer’s firm. Go over the details and ask the lawyer to explain why a particular charge was made.

If you and your lawyer cannot resolve your disagreement, there are other options including the free Law Society Fee Mediation Program.

Law Society Fee Mediation Program

The Law Society Fee Mediation Program is a free, informal service to help lawyers and clients resolve fee disputes quickly without having to go to court. The program can be completed faster than other options. It also offers distance mediation allowing a client and lawyer to resolve a dispute without having to meet in person, saving time and expense. The program is offered as part of the Law Society’s commitment to protect the public and provides clients and law firms with a solution for resolving client concerns.
  • The program is entirely voluntary and both the client and lawyer must agree to participate — either party can withdraw from the mediation at any time.
  • A private mediator is provided for free.
  • Mediation can occur in person or at a distance.
  • Clients do not need a lawyer to represent them.
  • The amount in dispute must be between $1,000 and $25,000.
  • If either the client or the lawyer has already dealt with the fees in court or reached an agreement through some other process, the dispute is not eligible for fee mediation.
How to apply for fee mediation
  1. A client or lawyer can begin the process by completing the Application for Fee Mediation.

  2. Send the application to the Law Society to the attention of the intake officer.

  3. The Law Society will contact the other party to determine whether there is a mutual interest in using the Fee Mediation Program.

  4. If agreed, the Law Society will appoint a mediator from our list of qualified and experienced mediators. Mediators are independent of the Law Society.

  5. The mediator will contact the client and lawyer and arrange a mediation session. The form of the mediation — in person or by distance (video and telephone conferencing) — is up to the participants. The fee mediation is limited to three hours.

The mediator manages the process to help the client and lawyer resolve their disagreement. 

The mediation process is done on a “without prejudice” basis. This means that anyone who agrees to participate in the Fee Mediation Program admits nothing more than a willingness to participate and any negotiations during the process cannot be used in any subsequent court proceedings.

Other options

Alternatives to mediation include:

  • Fee review: Clients and lawyers can have a lawyer’s bill reviewed by a BC Supreme Court Registrar. There are time limits for applying for a formal fee review, whether the fee is based on an hourly rate or on contingency. You should contact the court to confirm if you are in time. Note: time limits for reviews apply even if you try mediation.

   For more information on fee reviews, see BC Supreme Court Registrar fee review.

  • Court action: Clients and lawyers have the right to sue over fee disagreements in either the BC Provincial Court (Small Claims) or the BC Supreme Court.
The key differences between the Law Society program and the BC Supreme Court Registrar process are:
Law Society Fee Mediation Program
BC Supreme Court Registrar
$80 fee paid by the applicant and potential costs (awarded against the losing party)
For fee disputes of $1,000 to $25,000
No limit to the dollar value of the dispute
Available in person or at a distance using online meeting technology
Must attend in person
A court process with testimony and a decision after the hearing
Time is capped at three hours
May be lengthy, no set limit on hearing time
Requires consent of both parties
Does not require consent of both parties
Able to be processed and completed relatively quickly
Formal process may be lengthy
May result in binding settlement agreement
Decision is a court judgment, which is more easily enforced


Fee Mediation Program brochure 

Read more: Related information sheet and forms