Keeping your legal fees as reasonable as possible is one of our law firm’s concerns while at the same time providing you with quality legal representation. Keeping legal fees in check can be a difficult task especially if the matter is hotly contested or involves an unreasonable party on the other side. However, the following suggestions may assist you in reducing your legal fees:
1. Participate as effectively as you can in your own matter. As you are paying for our time, it is less expensive for you if you are able to assist us in some aspects of your matter. We will request that you obtain as much of the information and documents for your case as possible, consistent with its proper and expeditious handling. Some of our most complicated matters have been simplified by clients who are organized and present the information to us in a concise organized fashion. At the beginning of your case, you have a better understanding of the facts and circumstances of your matter than we do. We know the law. The less time we spend sifting through the facts, the more time we can spend applying the law to the facts supplied by you and gathered during the legal process. In addition, we will devise methods to assist you in gathering the necessary information.
It is important, too, that your participation be timely. If there is a delay in responding to a formal request for information, the other side could apply to the court for sanctions in the form of a money judgment against you, or use the delay in answering as an excuse to gain a continuance. If we are drafting documents for you in your matter, the more precise facts we have promptly at the beginning, the less time spent on redrafting the documents. If you want to assist us in keeping your legal fees down, please be accessible to us via email or telephone and provide us with the information that we request promptly.
Carefully read all documents sent to you. Many documents will be sent to you merely for your information and review. If you have a question or see an error, let us know as soon as possible. This may save an error from being perpetrated or save the case or matter from going in a direction opposite to your wishes.
2. Organize your questions and concerns so that they may all be discussed at one time rather than on separate occasions. If you have a question that needs to be immediately addressed, please contact us right away. However, a dozen separate emails or telephone calls over several days regarding non-emergency issues or concerns can become costly. If you have a number of small questions, then it is more cost effective to address them together. We find that a telephone conference is the most time effective way of handling this. Your questions may be answered during the telephone conference and if they cannot, we can discuss how we intend to obtain the information. Some of your questions or our answers may prompt other questions and answers. A give and take on the telephone can be the most time effective method. If you prefer a face to face meeting, we can arrange that, as well as a video conference if it is more convenient.
3. Organize the papers and pleadings involved in your case and bring them to all conferences and hearings unless otherwise directed. This way we will be on the same wave length for hearings, settlement negotiations, and other meetings, and both of us will have a full set of papers for reference. While you are organizing your papers, you may have thoughts and questions. If they don’t require immediate attention, write them down and discuss them at one time as discussed in the above section.
4. Remember the high cost of numerous telephone calls or emails. As a general rule, call or email the secretary first. If you wish information on the status of service or the filing of papers, the secretary has primary responsibility for these matters. If immediate advice or intervention is needed, she is trained to recognize such a situation and will bring it to the attention of the appropriate attorney right away. Better yet, if it is not a matter of legal advice, it may be that she can handle the problem right then and there. If you have questions regarding your bill, please ask to speak with our bookkeeper.
If you merely wish to leave some information such as an address or telephone number that our office has requested, you can leave your message with anyone answering your call.
5. Remember that our services are legal. Certainly, unless we understand the underlying nature of your interaction with the opposing party (or your (former) spouse in domestic cases), we cannot represent you as well as we might. We recognize that involvement in any litigation or legal matter is one of the greatest stresses of a person’s life. Therefore, it is to your legal advantage that you cope with this stress as effectively as possible. Unless you are thinking clearly, some of your decisions—such as the terms involved in whether you settle the case or not–could ultimately be extremely costly. For these reasons, we may spend some time exploring the interaction between the participants in your legal matter, especially toward the beginning of your case. From the background and information that you provide to us, we may be able to point out some of the “games” that are being played and how to avoid being one of the players. Long protracted negotiations can become expensive. Recognizing the “games” and strategically planning around them can help minimize the fees. However, at some point our listening to your experiences will fail to generate a return to you worth the added costs that will appear on your periodic statement.
6. Think positively toward the settlement of the case. We are unable to give a scientific probability of outcome or guarantee any single result in any legal matter. We can guarantee that the more time that our law firm spends on your legal matter, the more expensive it will be. Protracted litigation is very costly, especially if the matter is not resolved prior to a full evidentiary hearing or trial. For that reason, and because of the uncertainty that can result from leaving your legal matter completely in the hands of a judge, magistrate or jury to determine the outcome of your legal matter, it is almost always best to conclude the case if one can come close to a reasonably fair settlement. We’ll be glad to discuss settlement prospects at any time.
If your circumstances permit, our office recommends cooperation with the other party and opposing counsel in seeking a settlement which is reasonably fair to both sides. Reasonable parties are the most cost effective parties. We will be courteous and share documents that the other side has a right to receive; and we’ll ask them to do likewise. However, if the other party is vindictive, or just plain upset, that party can refuse to negotiate in good faith, or act in such a way as to provoke numerous court appearances or otherwise delay the proceedings. Less frequently, the other party’s counsel may be unwilling to talk settlement due to lack of knowledge of the issues in the case or a desire to have the matter the subject of court litigation. Coping with these situations can be expensive and wearying. Although some of such behavior may justify a fee award to us, a judgment with full reimbursement for the fees and costs caused is, unfortunately, rarely obtained.
Remember we are the lawyers and we have the experience in the legal process. Once you let us know your goals and objectives, we will lead you through the legal process with your input and assistance. One indicator that we have discovered over the years of unnecessarily high legal fees is the client who wants total control over the management of his/her legal matter. While we are always open to suggestions, we have seen time and time again such clients waste time and money dictating their legal matter in ways that merely serve to increase their legal fees without gaining any advantage in their matter.
We want you to be actively involved in you matter, but you should not micromanage it. For example, some clients say that they only want the most senior attorneys working on their matter; others say they only want the most junior lawyers who bill at a lower hourly rate. The appropriate answer is that we will choose the most appropriate attorney to handle each task. We take into account a multitude of factors. Sometimes a senior lawyer with a higher hourly rate can analyze a situation quicker and thus more cost effectively, and sometimes a lower hourly rate attorney can execute certain tasks involved more cost effectively. We take all these and other factors into account when we assign tasks. The firm regularly meets to assign such tasks. Don’t shackle your lawyers with a multitude of restrictions and requirements. Listen to what we say about the process. We are the ones on the front line for you. We want to do a good job and we don’t want to waste time. You will be assigned enough of your own tasks and you will be consulted as we, together, proceed through the process.
Hopefully the suggestions we have provided in this memorandum will assist you in reducing your legal fees. Please feel free to discuss any of these suggestions with us in person. We look forward to working with you on your legal matter.