The California State Bar’s Committee of Mandatory Fee Arbitration has issued an Advisory offering guidance regarding ethical issues in billing of legal fees. St. Francis Dean Carole J. Buckner, a member of the State Bar Committee, recently published an article summing up the high points of the Advisory for Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Update. Dean Buckner is a member and former chair of the Los Angeles County Bar’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee.
The Advisory addresses some common issues that can arise in arbitration between a client and lawyer if there is a dispute regarding legal fees charged by the lawyer. In such circumstances, an individual arbitrator, or a panel of arbitrators, examine merits of the dispute and evaluate the propriety of the fees billed, among other issues. Dean Buckner’s article describes aspects of legal fee billing likely to be scrutinized by the lawyer.
Dean Buckner has taught several courses in the law school curriculum on legal ethics including Professional Responsibility, Contemporary Ethical Issues, and Legal Ethics in Business Representation. She also frequently speaks and writes on ethics related issues.
As the contributing editor of the Orange County Lawyer Magazine’s Ethically Speaking column, she recently published an interview with the Orange County Bar Association’s Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee Co-Chairs, attorneys Eric S. Blum, a business litigator, and David J. Helleltine, Senior Appellate Attorney with the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three.
Among the many tips provided based on their wealth of experience in legal fee arbitration, Hesseltine and Blum indicated that attorneys should be sure to accurately describe the specific work they are intending to complete. They recommended that at the start of the representation, attorneys take the time to explain to the client how the fee agreement operates.
Both professionalism and ethics are important focuses of the St. Francis School of Law Juris Doctor program, which focuses on practical professional legal skills. In the Professional Responsibility course, St. Francis students learn about drafting fee agreements and billing clients as well as a range of other important ethical issues. Law students must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, and are also tested by the California State Bar’s General Bar Exam on legal ethics. For more information about the program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.