Lawyer-to-Lawyer Dispute Resolution Program

Long-standing or even some short-term personal disputes between lawyers result in clients being inadvertently caught in a tug-of-war in the legal process not necessarily arising out of their particular legal matter. These types of disputes also rob the lawyers involved of the personal satisfaction from practicing law, and inflict severe damage to the image of the legal profession as a whole. As a result, all clients and members of the profession are affected when any lawyers are distracted from their professional duties by personal conflicts and disputes between them. Nothing damages the legal profession more than when lawyers air their dirty linen in public or, worse yet, cost their clients unnecessary anxiety, expense and delay solely as a result of personal issues arising between them. These disputes involve adversarial law firm or office sharing break ups, fee disputes between co-counsel, and perceived or actual overzealous representation, dirty tricks, or professional or personal disrespect or discourtesy.

Previously no mechanism existed for the amicable resolution of these types of issues or disputes in a private and expeditious manner. Rather, law suits were filed, taking it public, or sometimes, out of frustration, the dispute was framed as an ethical complaint and filed with the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, which more often than not generates counter ethical complaints. In some instances, such disputes even lead to the eruption of physical confrontations and altercations between lawyers. Oftentimes, however, the personal issues between lawyers are simply ignored, remain unresolved and left to continue to fester, further distressing clients, fellow bar members, courts, and anyone else who must deal with the lawyers involved.

Disputes between lawyers are often considered “too hot to handle”; however, a group of Missouri Bar members and judges have taken on the challenge. Meeting first as an ad hoc committee, the group was soon sanctioned as a special board committee of the Board of Governors of The Missouri Bar to study how to address disputes between lawyers. After considerable meetings, discussion and study, the committee drafted a proposed revision of Rule 5.10 and proposed guidelines for a program to provide a vehicle for the private and voluntary resolution of disputes between lawyers. The proposed rule and program guidelines were adopted by the Supreme Court and went into effect on January 1, 2008. The guidelines provide:

The goal of this program is to provide an efficient, private, cost-effective and voluntary mechanism for resolving economic and professional disputes between and among lawyers. This program is intended to protect the interests of clients and benefit the judicial system, the public, and the profession by preventing additional burdens on an already over-burdened court system.

Pursuant to the program guidelines, the oversight committee for the new Lawyer-to-Lawyer Dispute Resolution Program has been appointed by the Board of Governors and oversees the operation of the program.

The program offers lawyers involved in a personal dispute a mediation-like process for the private and voluntary resolution of that dispute. If the matter cannot be resolved in mediation, the program will also offer binding arbitration, the initiation of which is strictly on a voluntary basis.

Who do I contact for more information?

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Dispute Resolution Program
The Missouri Bar
PO Box 119
Jefferson City, MO 65102