Let’s talk about attorney fees. When confronted with a legal claim or issue, some people simply want to “turn it over to the lawyer and be done with it.” Others prefer a more hands-on approach, and they prefer to work closely with legal counsel. Some clients want to resolve a matter as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, while others desire vindication and want nothing short of a judicial ruling or jury verdict. However, there is one thing that all clients probably agree on. The lower the attorney fees, the better.
How do you keep legal fees in check?
Make sure your goals and legal strategy are clear. Lawyers work for clients, and attorney fees are based on the amount of work the lawyer performs for the client. Clear communication and responsiveness from both the lawyer and the client is critical. Above all, you must make sure you communicate clear goals, and then to listen and understand what actions your lawyer is suggesting.
What can I do to save money on attorney fees?
There are also a few things you can do to reduce attorney fees, legal costs, and expenses:
(1) Come prepared. Each time you meet with your lawyer, anticipate questions and come prepared with information. Bring a timeline, notes, a list of witnesses and contact information, and relevant documents. Don’t make your lawyer beg for the information he or she will need in order to best represent you.
(2) Obtain, review and organize your documents. The overwhelming majority of cases can be boiled down to a few key documents. You don’t want to pay your lawyer to obtain documents you could get yourself. Nor do you want to pay a lawyer to “find a needle in a haystack” or to review unorganized or unnecessary documents searching for one relevant piece of information.
(3) Promptly do what your lawyer asks you to do. Respond quickly to information and discovery requests from your attorney. Failure to do so drives up costs immeasurably. It can lead to unnecessary communications between opposing lawyers, and between clients and lawyers, and often leads to unnecessary motions being filed by opposing counsel.
(4) Stay on top of your case. Keep copies of all papers, letters, and pleadings. Take notes when you talk to your attorney. Keep yourself informed about your case. You’d be shocked at how often clients call and/or ask for meetings to re-review things they should already know, or to get copies of papers they already have.
(5) Be an “information gatherer.” This one is especially true for companies and small businesses. You know your business, employees, and contacts better than your lawyer. Utilize your knowledge and relationships. You can often obtain information and documents much more easily and cost efficiently than your lawyer can.
(6) Utilize your lawyer’s assistant. Many of your questions and phone calls can be directed to your lawyer’s assistant, most of which is not recorded as billable time. For example, questions about scheduling, getting copies of documents, or coordinating meetings and events can easily be handled by a legal assistant much more cheaply than talking to the lawyer every time.
(7) Understand the difference between legal advice and counseling. It is obviously critical that you communicate effectively with your lawyer, but keep communications to the point. Oftentimes clients complain or vent about the opposing party, the unfairness of the situation and/or the legal process, or the tactics of the other lawyer. It’s perfectly okay if you want to pay your attorney to be a sympathetic ear for you, but understand that you pay for your attorney’s time, and that you can very likely get a sympathetic ear elsewhere for free.
(8) Compromise. Litigation is expensive. Realize that “wins” come in varying shapes and sizes, and that negotiating from a position of strength borne out of effective and thorough preparation can lead to the best long-term outcome. Indeed, a lengthy lawsuit may not be the best long-term strategy even though you think might have a slam dunk case at trial two years from now. Winning the battle isn’t worth losing the war. Smart and tactical compromise can be a virtue, particularly when taking into account both the direct and indirect costs of litigation.
Wiseman Bray has offices in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Call us today at 901-372-5003.