Monday, July 13, 2015

Keeping Legal Fees Down

               Maybe it's just me, but I haven't really met too many people who like to pay legal fees.  I get it -- legal bills can run into a lot of money and there are few tangible results -- no shiny car, no new stereo system, no sparkling teeth -- nothing to show that you can wrap your hands around.  I also know that sometimes it might seem like there has been very little work done, although from an attorney's perspective, there is actually a heck of a lot of work that doesn't even get billed.  I never bill my clients for all those hours I spend in the middle of the night, fretting about their children, or their assets, or their emotional well-being.  I try to keep my clients' bills as low as possible (and I'm sure most attorneys follow this practice) and still, legal fees can add up fast.  Lawyers and clients can work together to help keep fees down. 
               All those phone calls and emails add up -- Although my clients always see "no charge" items on their invoices, I do have to charge for some of the time I spend answering their phone calls and emails.  I have a big heart and I do care about my clients but I also try to remind them that if they're contacting me, it might go onto their bill.  One way to keep the bill down -- think before you send that email or make that call to your attorney and maybe don't do it.
               Another way to keep the bills down is to resolve some disputes with your ex without involving your attorney.  It is similar to parenting -- choose your battles.  It might be possible to negotiate a change in the schedule, or to express your frustration that your kids always seem to come back to your house with dirty laundry, by communicating directly with your ex rather than contacting your attorney, who then contacts the other attorney, who then speaks with your ex.  If you can cut out the middleman/woman -- i.e., the attorneys -- you can save money. 
               I always encourage my clients to let me know if they have any questions or concerns -- and I mean it.  I want them to feel comfortable with the work that is being done on their behalf and with the process.  A client recently thanked me profusely for explaining things to her -- this made me feel happy and proud to be in my profession.  There is a fine line, however, between asking questions so that you can understand the process and asking questions because you are second guessing and back seat driving.  I have had clients who have gone back and forth as to whether they wanted to save money by representing themselves or having me represent them, and clients who are so worried about their situations that they've asked me -- repeatedly -- about my "strategies".  I try to stay with them, to answer every question and to do it patiently.  And I "no charge" a lot of this communication, however, these kinds of queries are time consuming and I can't "no charge" all of it.  I get it -- like I said, this is a "fine line" area -- but still, I hate to see a client spending any money that doesn't seem to be moving their case forward.  My advice is that if you can, try to trust your attorney and let her/him do their work without questioning everything.  If you don't trust your attorney, maybe it is time to get new legal counsel.
               The point I'm trying to make is that although legal bills can be costly, there are things that can be done to keep those costs down.  Like everything else in family law (and in life in general), I think it is helpful to stop, breathe, re-assess, and then act....

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