8 Tips on Saving Legal Fees

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Today’s Take: 8 Tips on Saving Legal Fees

If you’re a client and you want to keep your legal fees down—and don’t you all—here are some tips for you (negotiating the fee arrangement aside):

  1. When your lawyer asks a question or makes an inquiry, answer promptly and fully.  It may be true that you sent him/her some documents a month ago telling him how to obtain the information, or even containing it.  But answer anyway.  Otherwise, the lawyer will have to spend time looking through the file to find the documents—and guess who’ll be charged for that?
  2. Prepare for meetings and conference calls.  If you’re the one who has asked for the call or meeting, prepare an agenda and circulate it in advance; if it’s the lawyer who wants it, have him/her do it.  Review the documents or communications you believe will be discussed, and have the lawyer do likewise.  There’s nothing like fumbling around on a conference call while either or both of you are looking for something and having to read it while everyone else is mute or reading it themselves.
  3. After a meeting, have the results documented and circulated, including the action items identified and by whom and when those items are to be done.  Not only will this eliminate confusion and loss of memory issues, but it will give you a chance to look at the results with a fresh eye.  Who know—you may want to change something in some way!
  4. Save up your calls!  You are highly likely to pay more if you call your lawyer 5 times a week for 5-10 minutes each rather than once a week for 30-40 minutes.  Some law firms have a minimum 0.2 hour charge for phone calls (by the way, ECJ is not one of them), and you really don’t need to exchange pleasantries multiple times in a week.  Besides, by saving up for one call rather than just reaching for the phone when a question pops up, you will have the opportunity to think and prepare for the call.  If you’re the type of client who likes a report on what’s going on in your matter, even if the response is “nothing”, then schedule the call on a regular periodic basis.
  5. If you are a business, try to have one person, or one small group of people, who are the interface with the lawyer.  That makes the lawyer’s job easier and more efficient and minimizes potential misunderstandings (different messages heard) at your end.  You should control your internal communications.  When a decision needs to be made, have the necessary decision-makers in the meeting or on the phone; don’t make the lawyer have to hunt for them and poll them.
  6. Before you engage a lawyer, make sure he/she gives you a clear understanding of the sorts of things that are likely to occur in the matter that will cost you money.  This has particular significance in litigation matters, where clients not used to litigating need help in understanding the process and the associated costs.  Litigation is almost always expensive—your lawyer can and should explain why—but there are choices you can make to keep costs down, so long as you understand the impact of your choosing to do or not to do something and are willing to receive the lawyer’s obligatory CYA letter or email (“At your instruction, I will not take the deposition of the out-of-state witnesses”, etc.)
  7. At the outset, communicate to your lawyer the result you want or expect to achieve, and do it in writing as well.  You can then discuss with the lawyer the best and most cost-efficient ways of getting to the desired end.  If it’s documenting a business deal, don’t make the lawyer try to figure out what the deal is or should be; that just costs you more money.  You are the client, and it’s your deal; take ownership of it and let the lawyer be your instrument, not the decision-maker.  If it’s a litigation matter, discuss whether early settlement is a viable option in light of what the expected cost is relative to what’s at stake.
  8. If you get a bill and have a question, raise it promptly.  It will be harder to get the charge reduced or removed if you do nothing for months, and it really will deprive the lawyer of a fair opportunity to respond to your inquiry completely and accurately.

Today’s Taste:

Since we’re talking about reducing cost, let’s go with a 2007 Foxglove Zinfandel, only $13.99 per 750 ml bottle.  A mix of Zinfandel grapes with 14% Petite Syrah, this wine from the Paso Robles region in California has a wild berry fruit flavor and a bit of a tang.  It was rated 90 points by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.  A veritable bargain!

On Writs and Wine is the blog of ECJ’s Litigation Department, featuring our takes on a variety of litigation-related issues, plus a wine recommendation for your palate’s delight.  Your feedback—on both the takes and the wine—is much appreciated.  Enjoy!

Topics:  Attorney's Fees, Legal Costs

Published In: Professional Practice Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP | Attorney Advertising

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