Hiring a lawyer can be a very expensive endeavor. However, resolving your legal issue should be your central concern. The information presented below can help you understand how to limit your legal costs.
Understand Your Billing Structure
Lawyers generally charge by the hour, billing in 6 minute increments. However, they may also charge a minimum for each phone call or email they answer. For example, if your lawyer bills ¼ of an hour every time you call or email, then you may be charge for 15 mintes even if your call only lasted a couple minutes.
Depending on the type of work, a flat rate may be more cost-effective. Attorneys chart flat rates for tasks when the amount of time and effort needed to complete the task is relatively predictable. For example, a flat fee may be applicable for will creation, divorce proceedings, business formation, and certain types of contract drafting.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions about Your Fee Agreement
In order to be aware of the nuances in how your attorney will bill you, he or she will likely provide you with a fee agreement. If you understand the rate structure, you may be able to compare prices and see if your lawyer is willing to negotiate on the price.
An attorney can help you save money, but first he or she must be aware that you are trying to save money and that you are serious about it. Ask your attorney to give you an estimate of your overall attorney fees, and to tell you when you are getting close to that estimate.
Help Your Attorney Keep Costs Down
Your attorney is more productive when using a larger chunk of time on your case, rather than lots of little pieces of time. In order to make sure your attorney can work on your case for a large amount of time, collect all your questions before calling him or her. Make sure that you are organized before any meetings with your lawyer – gather all information that you will need, make a list of questions, etc.
When consulting with your attorney in mind that there are certain courses of action that will be more time consuming and costly than others.
Also, depending on the work, you may be able to do some work yourself for which your attorney won’t have to bill you. For example, you may be able to obtain documents, such as birth certificates or other records, or fill out forms saving the lawyer the time and expense of doing it for you.
You May Save Time When Paying More per Hour
An attorney that charges a higher hourly rate, may save you money overall by resolving your legal issue quicker and more completely than another attorney. For example, a lawyer who charges $500 an hour for work he or she can do in 10 hours will cost less than a lawyer who charges $250 an hour but needs 25 hours to complete the task. (Here’s the Math: 10 hours at $500 is $5,000, but 25 hours at $250 is $6,250.) An attorney who specializes in a specific area of the law or is higher up in a firm may have the ability to save you time (and ultimately money), even though his or her fees may seem daunting.