Law Society Fee Mediation Program and other options

The Fee Mediation Program is a free, informal process for dealing with fee disputes quickly and efficiently 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.

Overview

  • A private mediator is provided for free to help a client and lawyer resolve a fee dispute.
  • Goal is for the client and lawyer to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
  • Entirely voluntary and both the client and lawyer must agree to participate — either party can withdraw from the mediation at any time.
  • Clients do not need a lawyer to represent them.
  • Must not have a previous determination on the fees through fee mediation or any other process.

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 does not make a ruling. Instead, the mediator will help the client and lawyer explore options for solving 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

If still unsatisfied, alternatives include: 

  • Pursuing a fee review through the BC Supreme Court Registrar. You may have to pay costs with this court-like process and the client and lawyer must appear in person.
  • Filing a lawsuit in court. Both lawyers and clients 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

Free

$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

Private

Public

Informal

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

Requires more time before process complete

Not binding, unless parties agree otherwise

Decision is a court judgment and may be enforced


Read more: Related information sheet and forms