Dear Harry

: As a small business operator, I have sold the goods of a man who runs a plant that makes beautiful and exotic fabrics. In June, I e-mailed him an order for a particular fabric to be used by a branch of one of our major banks. The bank gave me a hard time when it came to payment. I consulted a lawyer, who made exactly two phone calls and took his 20 percent fee out of the collected money. That represented almost all of my profit. I told him his fee was excessive; he told me that I could sue him. I heard about some way I could submit this to arbitration and save me further legal fees. The Bar Association indicated that an arbitration panel for fee disputes consisted of two lawyers and one non-lawyer. This looks to me like I won't get a fair shake. Please tell me if I should go to court or take my chances on the arbitration.

What Harry says: I have been a non-lawyer participant in the Bar's Fee Disputes Committee for many years. If there was any slant at all in my cases, it was in favor of the client. If he agrees to the process, you can be very secure in the fairness of the outcome. Keep in mind, though, that his phone calls got results; yours did not. *