Some Ways to Keep Your Legal Fees Low
The biggest complaint we hear from clients and lay people generally is that lawyers are very expensive. It’s true that paying for a lawyer’s time can be costly. However, there are things our clients can do to keep their fees down. Here’s my list:
1. Gather and provide the financial documents your attorney will need. In the typical divorce or support battle, I want to see a number of financial documents. These documents are critical to my ability to provide accurate legal advice to my client, to the preparation of my client’s mandatory financial disclosures, and to my ability to assess settlement options for my client. I want to see my client’s last three tax returns, two months of paycheck stubs, as well as all the documents listed on the Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142). I ask my clients to stop shredding financial documents that they receive while their case is active and gather and provide me with copies of their monthly statements. If you take the time to gather tax returns, paycheck stubs and bank and credit card statements early in your case, you will reduce your attorney’s fees.
2. Ask your questions efficiently. Once you hire me, I am tracking and billing you for the time my staff and I spend communicating with you, whether it is by e-mail, phone call, or meeting. You can use my time efficiently by keeping a log of your questions and waiting until you have two or three questions before you pick up the phone or send me an email. Of course, when you have an urgent issue or question, you should never hesitate to contact me, but if it’s not urgent, wait until you have several questions to ask. If you call me with one question, you will get billed for a minimum of six minutes, even if it only takes me two or three minutes to answer you. Three calls like that will add up to 18 minutes of billable time. In contrast, if you wait until you have three questions, and I can answer all of them in five minutes, you will get billed only for six minutes.
3. Respond to requests for documents and/or information promptly. I notice that clients who are prompt in getting me the documents and/or information that I need tend to have lower legal costs than those I have to repeatedly ask. One reason for this is because when an issue is fresh in my mind, I can deal with it more efficiently than when I have to refresh my recollection about the issue by reviewing your file.
4. Try to maintain a cordial relationship with your ex. I realize this suggestion is impossible in some cases. Sometimes there’s too much anger or hurt, or crazy. But if you have a halfway decent relationship with your ex, nurture it. There are many issues you may be able to work out, with some advice and guidance from me. In those cases, all you may need me for is to advise you and write up your agreement. That’s a very efficient use of my services. FYI, my least expensive cases are those where the parties come in together for mediation or document preparation.
Williams Family Law represents clients in divorce, child custody and other family law matters throughout the Sacramento area. Call 916-407-0544 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.