Saving Money On Legal Fees: Top 10 Things To Know
Everyone appreciates great value – the same is true when it comes to legal services. Most clients look for reasonably priced lawyer bills when they can get them. As lawyers, our clients often ask us for estimates on how much a legal service will cost. For certain legal services, we charge a flat-rate fee with no hidden costs. Other times, legal fees can be unpredictable, especially if your legal matter involves litigation. This does not mean that you cannot get affordable lawyer bills. Lawyers bill you for the amount of time they spend working on your legal matter. This is known as hourly billing. Usually, lawyers bill their time in 1/10 of an hour increments, which translates to billing in 6 minute increments. Billing in small increments allows lawyers to keep your costs low while accurately recording the time spent on your matter. There are certain things you can do to save money on your legal fees without sacrificing the quality of the legal service. Keep reading to find out the top 10 ways to get reasonable lawyer bills.
1) Pick Your Lawyer Wisely
When faced with a legal issue, many clients shop around for the lawyer offering the cheapest legal fee. This might be a red flag. Sometimes, selecting the lawyer who offers the lowest cost is not always the best choice. Bills can mysteriously add up and cases may take longer to resolve. This is sometimes a matter of ethics. Other times it is due to a lawyer having more experience. This means that even if they have a higher hourly rate, the will get things done much quicker. Not only is selecting the right lawyer crucial to the outcome of your legal matter, but many clients change lawyers mid-way through. Correcting the first lawyer’s mistake can be costly. Picking the right lawyer for your matter is a great way to get cheaper lawyer bills.
2) Read Documents Your Lawyer Gives You First
Typically, lawyers will provide you copies of important documents related to your legal matter. For example, these documents may include your retainer agreement, invoices, contracts and pleadings. Got Questions? Often times, you may come across the answer by reviewing your documents carefully, which will save you from having to contact your lawyer.
3) Keep Non-Urgent Telephone Calls, Emails and In-Person Meetings to a Minimum
Lawyers understand that you may have questions about your legal issue and we are happy to answer them when our schedules allow us to. But, many clients will contact their lawyer anytime a question comes up which may increase their bill. Every time lawyers answer your questions, they are diverting their attention from one matter to another. If your questions are not urgent, consider writing down all your questions then call or e-mail your lawyer to ask them all in one go. Rather than asking each question in a series of e-mails or phone calls, asking all your questions at once will save you money by allowing lawyers to answer your questions more efficiently.
4) Communicate With Your Lawyer Via E-mail
Communicating with your lawyer through email is advantageous for several reasons. Firstly, it is quicker for your lawyer to file and record e-mails which allows him or her to respond to your queries efficiently. Secondly, by the time your lawyer responds to your e-mail, he or she will likely have your answer. If you call your lawyer, you may catch them at a time when they do not have your file readily available. Also, both you and your lawyer will have documentation on what was communicated so that you can both refer to it at anytime.
5) When communicating With Your Lawyer by Telephone or In Person, Be Organized and Prepared
Before calling your lawyer, jot down questions, facts and suggestions you want to discuss. Have your background information handy in case you need to reference it during the call. Make notes on the advice your lawyer gives you and schedule your next telephone call with the paralegal to prevent playing phone tag with your lawyer.
When meeting your lawyer, make sure to write down any questions you may have beforehand. If you are asked to bring documents, if possible, bring originals and your lawyer will make a copy for your file. Organize your documents. If your legal problem involves an issue that has occurred over time (such as a dispute with your employer), prepare a timeline of facts. This will help you explain your story concisely. Being prepared will save you time during the meeting and keep costs in check.
6) Lawyers Can Only Provide You with Legal Advice
Dealing with legal matters can be an extremely stressful and emotional time in your life. As lawyers, we are trained to provide you with legal advice and most of us do not have the training to act as your counselor. Even if we did, it can be very expensive to pay our hourly rate for counseling services, but just ask and we will be happy to refer you to a qualified professional. Our primary interest is to resolve your legal matter in the most efficient way possible.
7) Respond to Your Lawyer’s Questions and Inquiries in a Timely Manner
In legal matters that involve upcoming court dates, often times lawyers will get in touch to request instructions, information, or disclosure from you. Please provide this at your earliest convenience. If you submit your documents too late, we will not be able to save you money by having legal assistants or students review and draft your documents. Also, every time a lawyer has to remind you, this drives your costs up.
8) Before Meeting with your Lawyer, Review and Submit Your Comments in Advance
Lawyers will often ask you to review draft documents and provide your comments in advance of meeting with you. Make sure to do so. It will cost you more money if you hold off on reading the documents during the meeting and you will have to wait while we make revisions to the documents.
9) Ask Your Lawyer for an Alternative Billing Method
Depending on the complexity of your legal problem, your lawyer may accept an alternative fee arrangement such as a contingency fee agreement or a limited scope retainer.
Contingency Fee Agreements
Contingency fee agreements set out the amount you agree to pay your lawyer from the money you receive in a judgement or settlement. Typically, your lawyer’s contingency fee will be based on a percentage on the final amount of the judgement or settlement. Usually, contingency fees are available in matters involving employment disputes and large debt collection matters.
Limited scope Retainers
Another alternative is a limited scope retainer. Usually, lawyers will require clients to sign a retainer agreement which sets out the retainer fee. A retainer fee is a lump sum of money that you must pay your lawyer before he or she begins work on your file. A limited scope retainer allows your lawyer to provide legal services for part of your legal matter, but not all of it. You will be responsible for handling tasks that are not covered outside the scope of the limited scope retainer. For example, your lawyer may draft a Statement of Claim for you, but you will be in charge of representing yourself in court.
Keep in mind that some legal matters are too complex for a lawyer to offer their services through contingency fee agreements or limited scope retainers. The other suggested ways to get cheaper lawyer bills still work though!
10) Find Lawyers Who Charge a Flat Rate Fee
While not every legal service is offered on a flat rate fee basis, there are many areas of law where lawyers offer flat rates. Flat rate fees allow you to know how much you will be paying ahead of time with no hidden costs. At Kahane Law, we offer flat rate fees in various areas of law including:
- Real Estate Law – residential purchases, sales, transfers and mortgage refinances.
- Family Law – uncontested matters such as separation agreements, cohabitation agreements and uncontested (desk) divorces.
- Wills & Estates Law – wills, personal directives or living wills and enduring powers of attorney.
- Corporate, Commercial and Business Law – corporate searches, registering trade names, setting up numbered or named company with minute book and all resolutions, joint venture agreements and much more.
- Litigation – debt collection.
- Immigration Law – document review.
Prefer Quality Service At Fair Rates To Affordable Lawyer Bills?
At Kahane law, we believe in building transparent and honest relationships with your clients. We proudly offer competitive flat rate legal fees in the majority of real estate services, and many areas of family, corporate, employment and wills & estates law. You can reach us toll-free at 1-877-225-8817, 403-225-8810 locally or email us directly here.