On February 24, 2016, Barr Law Group (Barr) filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association to recover $40,000 in unpaid legal fees from its client, Adams Construction VT, LLC (Adams). Adams responded by filing an answer and counterclaim, seeking to recover $97,000 in damages from Barr. Thereafter, Adams and Barr each actively participated in the arbitration, including arbitrator selection, preliminary conferences, extensive discovery and motion practice over a period of more than five months. At the request of Adams, the matter was set for a three day hearing.
In October of 2016, just one week before the three day hearing was set to begin, Adams filed an objection and motion to dismiss the arbitration, arguing that the arbitration clause in its fee agreement with Barr was unenforceable. Specifically, Adams argued that Barr, as Adams’ counsel, owed a fiduciary duty and ethical obligations that required it to disclose to Adams the rights it would forego by signing the agreement. According to Adams, Barr had failed to explain the legal implication of the arbitration clause and failed to advise Adams to obtain independent counsel before signing the agreement. However, Adams’ objection and motion to dismiss was the first time it had raised any objection to the arbitration proceedings.