For most clients, keeping legal fees down is, or should be, a major priority in the legal process. Surprisingly, however, many clients do not adequately explore the likely cost of litigation, perhaps because of the emotions involved. Here are some suggestions on how you can help reduce your legal costs if you need to hire an attorney:
- Carefully review the lawyer’s fee agreement. Fee agreements are usually drafted so as to give maximum leverage to the law firm. It is very important that you understand the precise mechanics of how you will be charged in your case.
- Review and understand your lawyer’s policies on minimum billing increments. Many lawyers will bill a minimum amount of time for a particular task. For example, lawyers may charge at least .1 (six minutes) or .25 (15 minutes) for a phone call, regardless of whether the call takes that full amount of time. If your lawyer will bill you .25 hours every time you call him/her, you should know that in advance. You might also consider the reasonableness of competing attorneys’ minimum billing amounts in deciding which law firm to hire.
- Try to consolidate your communications to your attorney, to reduce the impact of being billed for multiple emails, calls, etc. For example, if you are going through a divorce, rather than sending your attorney six emails on a given day about six different issues, try to send one email addressing all six issues.
- Before you hire an attorney, ask for a total cost estimate in writing, and request in writing that your attorney email you if the cost will exceed the estimate you have been given.
- Pay attention to your attorney’s hourly rate. In my experience, most clients are much more concerned about the initial retainer amount. The attorney’s hourly rate may ultimately have more impact on the total cost of litigation, however.
- If you are consulting with an attorney about a divorce, ask the attorney how much the firm charges on an average divorce case. Also ask what you can do to make sure that your legal fees do not exceed that average cost.
- After you hire an attorney, try to give a lot of consideration to the attorney’s advice. If your attorney advises you that a particular course of action will not likely be successful, but you pursue it any way, your legal fees will likely increase significantly. In some situations, you might also have to pay the opposing party’s legal fees, which can be financially devastating.