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Rules of the Standing Committees of the North Carolina State Bar

Section .0700 Procedures for Fee Dispute Resolution

.0707 Processing Requests for Fee Dispute Resolution

(a) Requests for resolution of a disputed fee must be submitted in writing to the coordinator of the Fee Dispute Resolution Program addressed to the North Carolina State Bar, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611. A lawyer is required by Rule 1.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct to notify in writing a client with whom the lawyer has a dispute over a fee of the existence of the Fee Dispute Resolution Program and to wait at least 30 days after the client receives such notification before filing a lawsuit to collect a disputed fee. A lawyer may file a lawsuit prior to expiration of the required 30-day notice period or after the petition is filed by the client only if such filing is necessary to preserve a claim. If a lawyer does file a lawsuit pursuant to the preceding sentence, the lawyer must not take steps to pursue the litigation until the fee dispute resolution process is completed. A client may request fee dispute resolution at any time before either party files a lawsuit. The petition for resolution of a disputed fee must contain:

(1) the names and addresses of the parties to the dispute;

(2) a clear and brief statement of the facts giving rise to the dispute;

(3) a statement that, prior to requesting fee dispute resolution, a reasonable attempt was made to resolve the dispute by agreement;

(4) a statement that the subject matter of the dispute has not been adjudicated and is not presently the subject of litigation.

(b) All petitions for resolution of a disputed fee must be filed (i) before the expiration of the statute of limitation applicable in the General Court of Justice for collection of the funds in issue or (ii) within three years of the termination of the client-lawyer relationship, whichever is later.

(c) The coordinator of the Fee Dispute Resolution Program or a facilitator will investigate the petition to determine its suitability for fee dispute resolution. If it is determined that the dispute is not suitable for fee dispute resolution, the coordinator and/or the facilitator will prepare a dismissal letter setting forth the facts and a recommendation for dismissal. The coordinator and/or the facilitator will forward the dismissal letter to the vice-chairperson. If the vice chairperson agrees with the recommendation, the petition will be dismissed. The coordinator and/or facilitator will notify the parties in writing of the dismissal. Grounds for dismissal include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) the petition is frivolous or moot;

(2) the committee lacks jurisdiction over one or more of the parties or over the subject matter of the dispute;

(3) the fee has been earned; or

(4) the expenses were properly incurred.

(d) If the vice-chairperson disagrees with the recommendation for dismissal, the coordinator will schedule a settlement conference.

History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23

Adopted May 4, 2000

Amended March 8, 2007; March 11, 2010

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