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How to Handle Fee Disputes

Fee matters are not ordinarily a basis for discipline of a lawyer because they usually do not involve questions of ethical or professional misconduct. In some cases they do, however, and in those cases where the attorney is found at fault discipline will follow.

Some fee disputes may be the result of an overcharge by the attorney. Others, however, result from a lack of understanding by the client of the basis for the fee and the factors that go into the charge made by a lawyer for services. The lawyer may be at fault because of a failure to make the client aware of what is involved. Clients are often reluctant or embarrassed to discuss fees with their lawyers. They should not be.

Where the parties are not able to reach an understanding and there is a controversy over fees, the matters, like any other dispute over the value of services, may be resolved by court action.

As an alternative action, the Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Bristol, and Washington County Bar Associations have Fee Dispute Committees which are prepared to consider complaints concerning alleged excessive fees and have established procedures which frequently lead to a resolution of the dispute. The complaints in these cases should be submitted directly to the appropriate bar association.

If you feel your attorney has overcharged you for services, we encourage you to:

  1. Review the fee agreement, if one was signed. Check to see if the fee was a flat fee or non-refundable.

  2. If not, ask your attorney for an itemized bill, to see what work was done. You may also request a copy of your file. If the charges seem to be for unnecessary work or work that was not done, then you should write or meet with your lawyer to work out the fee dispute.

  3. If you're still unable to work out the matter with your attorney, you may contact your local fee dispute committee. A list of fee dispute committees is provided below.

Fee Dispute Mediation is a not a service that all Bar Associations provide, and varies from county to county. Many counties do not offer fee mediation. In such a case, you may wish to seek legal advice as to your options for filing suit for breach of contract for services not rendered.

Bristol Tennessee Bar Association
J. Paul Frye, Fee Dispute Chairman
P.O. Box 220
Piney Flats, TN 37686
(423) 538-4606

Chattanooga Bar Association
The Pioneer Building
Suite 420
801 Broad Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402
(423) 756-3222

Washington County Fee Dispute Committee
Christy McInturff Huret, Fee Dispute Chairperson
801 Sunset Drive E-2
Johnson City, TN 37604-3033

Kingsport Bar Association Fee Dispute Resolution Committee
Curt Rose – Committee Chair
P.O. Box 1404
Kingsport, TN 37662
(423) 246-8176

Knoxville Bar Association
P.O. Box 2027
Knoxville, TN 37901
(865) 522-6522

Memphis Bar Association
Charlotte Gean
80 Monroe Avenue, Suite 220
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 527-3573

Nashville Bar Association
Serving Davidson and Williamson Counties Vicki Shoulders
150 4th Avenue North, Suite 1050
Nashville, TN 37219
(615) 242-9272

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