My divorce started before I became a lawyer, and I remember what it was like to be on the other side of the legal desk when I was divorcing. When one household divides in half, you're already under financial strain without the addition of legal expenses. Let's face it- you have a thousand things you would rather do with your hard-earned dollars than spending it on legal fees, but getting a great lawyer to fight for you when you need it is a wise and cost-effective decision. When you need a root canal, or an X-Ray, you don't and shouldn't try to do it yourself, nor do you allow your carpenter friend at the bar to try his hand. Law is a specialty profession for the same reason- lawyers undergo an approximate total of 19 years of schooling prior to taking the bar exam. When you want to save money on legal representation, the best thing you can do is to deal with a lawyer who understands your position, and explain to your lawyer about your budget, and your goals. Have your lawyer advise you on things that can do to help save you money during your representation. I have compiled this list of general things I advise many of my clients to do to minimize legal expenses, and I will always be glad to give personalized advice to clients on how to self-help the smart way based on their unique circumstances.
FREE CONSULTATION: Choosing a lawyer is not easy. You want someone with whom you can communicate, and someone who cares about helping you fight for your rights. I offer a free consultation to determine if we are a good fit to partner on your legal matter.
KNOW YOUR GOALSWithin the parameters of the justice system, I work to achieve your goals. When I work for you, you are the boss, you make the big decisions. I provide you the options, chances of success, and relative cost of pursuing the various options available to you so you can make the most informed choices about how to handle your legal situation. But first, we have to know what your goals are. Would you rather obtain the five years' of back child support owed you, or are you wanting your former spouses' rights to custody and visitation terminated for nonpayment? When money is tight, the approach to these two scenarios would often be different. I am bound by the rules of confidentiality; you can tell me things you would not feel comfortable sharing with your best friend, and it stays completely private between us, so be honest and forthcoming about what you are hoping to achieve to get there faster, and with less expense.
BE PREPARED. Unless you have a worker's compensation or a personal injury case, chances are, your case will be billed based on the amount of time I have to use to get your case handled. When you are able to concisely answer questions, and provide any necessary documentation in an organized fashion, the less time it will take to prepare your case, and that translates into big savings for you. Keep secure notes including the dates of important events, who was present, and how these witnesses can be contacted, and make a copy for your me. Ask for copies of medical reports and police reports as they are generated and keep track of which officers from which departments were involved with your situation, and which medical providers you have seen, when, and why, in case we later need to call these people as witnesses. Make a list of questions you want to ask your me, and if I ask you to bring things with you, keep a checklist to work from (such as responses to discovery, a tax return, a list of people you want to testify for you, etc). Keeping a calendar of events dedicated to your case is also a good idea to keep track of divorce, visitation, and custody issues so you can later accurately testify what took place and when.
SCHEDULING MATTERS. There will be times either or both of us may need to re-schedule for emergencies. I will always do what I can to accommodate a client emergency. Court timing can be unpredictable on occasion, but I try to allow for that in how I schedule clients because your time is also valuable to me. When we set up a meeting, I block out time in my schedule to be sure we have time to work on a given task. If you come late, it may cause you to need a second appointment if we cannot accomplish our tasks in the remaining allotted time prior to my next appointment, so schedule realistically to save money. If you cannot make it at all, tell me as soon as you become aware that we need to reschedule, because before we meet, I spend time reviewing notes and what we need to accomplish. Thus, even if I end up being able to use your time slot for someone else, you would get billed for the time I spent preparing to meet with you before I knew the meeting was cancelled. If we can reschedule quickly, I likely won't have to review again before the rescheduled meeting. The best rule is to cancel at least a day in advance for appointments, and as far in advance as you know something has arisen so I can plan accordingly. Ask the receptionist if there are any additional instructions for the new meeting time to be fully prepared.
DISCOVERY. Discovery refers to the portion of a legal case where the parties share certain required information. Until discovery is completed, you likely cannot have a trial (other than for issues such as contempt of a court order). The discovery phase is often the most expensive portion of litigation because it can take a long time time to complete, and whichever party wants to delay the case will often try delay discovery to occasion a delay to the litigation. I will provide you with critical strategies to help keep discovery moving quickly. If you have any information or proof to suggest your opponent has cash income sources, or is working multiple jobs, bring detailed notes explaining what you know, and how you learned it. These notes can save time I would otherwise spend in duplicating research you have already conducted in order to obtain evidence for court of these income streams that your opponent may be trying to hide from you.
CASE UPDATES. Lawyers often favor giving updates when something changes, but most clients want to know how their case is faring from one day to the next because it is on their minds. However, realistically, many types of lawsuits unfold over weeks or months, not days. On billable hour cases, you get billed for attorney time including the time when you are receiving updates about your case, so the best way to save you money is to create a schedule and format for updates that strikes the right balance for your budget and your peace of mind. Many clients prefer text message or email updates to phone calls, which often take longer to conclude. A full range of options for our updates is available to accommodate your needs.
FLEXIBILITY. Sometimes, a phone conference can be less expensive for the client than an in person meeting, especially when the client lives or works far from my office. A full range of communication options is available, including text message, email, phone, and FaceTime. If you have impaired abilities, such as vision or hearing impairment, or concerns about security of any particular kind of communication (if you believe someone may be monitoring or intercepting your voicemail or emails, for example), please share these concerns with me so we can plan accordingly to ensure communication that serves your needs while keeping all of our communications secure. Make sure that you have shared any topics you want to discuss in a conference to prevent delays and to permit appropriate scheduling to address the entire call agenda.
MANAGE EXPENSES. When we need documents to show the court, we will need to have enough copies to that the I will retain one, the opposing party will receive one, and you will have one for your records, in addition to the original for the court. For appeals, 15 or more copies of each evidence document is necessary for the appellate index! Where possible, making your own copies will save you money, so long as you are careful to copy items reliably. If not all the copies are the same, I will have to take the time to inspect the copies before we can use them, or you will have to remake the copies, so don't skip pages, and don't alter any of the copies, and be consistent. Use post-it notes, or non-permanent markings if you decide to make any notations on documents to avoid the need to order a new copy (which would cost you time, and possible a fee from the company with the documents we want).
Process servers are vital to lawsuits- they charge for their time, and often for the number of trips to attempt service of process, so you can save process costs by doing what you can to provide a complete address and any details you know about the daily schedule for anyone you want to sue. For instance, if you know your ex-wife only works the night shift from 11pm to 7am at a local business, the process server would probably miss the chance to serve your ex-wife at work unless the process server was forewarned that defendant only works the evening shift. That lack of communication could end up costing you for the process server to go back for a 2nd trip to the plant after the process server called me (and I called you) for additional info on why the process server couldn't locate your wife from 9-5pm at the plant. Further, the "target" may have become aware of the suit prematurely through friends working the day shift when the process server showed up the first time, and may now actively be trying to avoid the process server, so it certainly pays to share what you know, or do your best to pass along anything relevant while operations are being planned rather than after a few missed chances.
HOW CAN I SAVE MONEY ON MY LEGAL REPRESENTATION?
DISCUSS PAYMENT OPTIONS WITH COUNSEL.
In many circumstances, I can offer payment plans or finance options via credit cards, so long as you will not be asking me to file a bankruptcy proceeding. When you pay for legal services by credit card, you pay the fee the processor charges me to accept the card, currently 2.75-3% of the amount charged. I try to offer the lowest fee reputable credit card processor I can find for the benefit of my clients, but you also want to consider the interest rate you pay on your cards, and how quickly you expect to pay off that balance to understand the true cost of using credit. If you have significant debt, and you're having trouble paying for legal help that you need, you may be a candidate for a bankruptcy, in order to free you from unsecured debt. I am a debt-relief agency under the provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, and I can assist people in filing for bankruptcy protection.
by Alissa Gearhart, (c) copyright 2015.
Contact the Law Office of Alissa L. Gearhart Today, at 815-534-9220 for your FREE initial consultation.
Copyright The Law Office of Alissa L. Gearhart & Associates. All rights reserved.