Appellant is a law firm who successfully represented plaintiff in the prosecution of a legal malpractice action. Appellant sought counsel fees from plaintiff that exceeded the amount of consequential damages proximately caused by the attorney/tortfeasor. Saffer v. Willoughby, 143 N.J. 256, 272 (1996). When plaintiff and appellant were unable to agree, the trial judge who presided over the legal malpractice action sua sponte decided to adjudicate the fee dispute over appellant's objection. This court reverses and holds the trial judge did not have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate this counsel fee dispute. Appellant was not a party in the case, had not filed a collection action against plaintiff, nor sought relief under N.J.S.A. 2A:13-5, commonly known as the Attorney's Lien Act.