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Thirty-eight states have received grades below C for their lawyer-client fee-dispute programs, including eight incompletes and three failing grades, according to a new report. HALT, a Washington-based nonprofit organization of Americans for Legal Reform, has issued the country’s first report card on lawyer-client fee-arbitration forums, which allow clients to solve billing disputes with their lawyers. The District of Colombia received the best grade, followed by Maine, New Jersey and New York. But even these four jurisdictions only received B grades. The report examined six areas: whether lawyers are required to participate in binding arbitration; the ease of initiating arbitration; the amount of state bar publicity about fee arbitration; the program’s reliance on nonlawyer arbitrators; whether nonbinding arbitration is offered in addition to arbitration; and how the system enforces awards. “The most pervasive complaint about lawyers is that their fees are too high for the work done,” Suzanne M. Blonder, HALT’s senior counsel, said in a statement. “But in evaluating the programs established to settle these disputes between clients and lawyers, our report card found a system plagued by an appalling pattern of biased procedures, insufficient resources and little enforcement.” Three states, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia, received Fs for their programs. Eight states � including Illinois and Ohio � received incompletes because they lack statewide systems.

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