If you need to engage a lawyer you will be concerned about the cost. Don’t be embarrassed – the likely cost of your matter is something that should be discussed up front. It is important to you and needs to be carefully considered as part of your decision to proceed.
Sometimes it is tempting to bury your head in the sand, but that is dangerous! Warning bells should be sounding if you have left your first meeting with your lawyer and you have no idea of likely costs or how costs will be calculated. Whilst it is often difficult to estimate costs in some matters, the issue of costs should remain an open dialogue between solicitor and client throughout a matter.
There are a number of things you can do (and not do) to minimise your legal costs.
Prepare for your first appointment
- You know what your story is. You have lived through the injury or the deal gone wrong, and it is easy to forget that your lawyer hasn’t. The more organised you are and the more clearly you can explain your situation, the more quickly your lawyer will be able to get a handle on it – and that helps keep your costs down.
- Make a written record of the important events from the beginning to the present day – a separate paragraph for each so that it is easier to follow. Ask yourself each time, “who?”, “what?” “when?” “how?” and “why?”. Think of how each point can be proven.
- If you write up a key conversation, try to remember and write it down in a “He said: – I said” format.
- Gather all documents that might be relevant. Sort them into order from the beginning to the present. Don’t write on any of the documents (they may well have to be shown to the other side – they may even be used in court). Instead use Post-It notes to mark important things.
- Make a list of questions.
Bring all of this to your appointment. Before then, try to work out what your objective is.
Always Communicate with your lawyer
- Don’t rush the time with your lawyer. Yes, lawyers charge mostly on a time basis, but many legal clients are so worried about this that they tend to hurry through what they have to say. As a result, they don’t mention everything that they meant to, and they don’t take in as much of the advice which they are given as they would have if they just slowed down and used the time with their lawyer more efficiently. As a result their lawyer has more work to do and more appointments or follow up correspondence is needed. Take your time – it will cost you less in the long run.
- Keep your lawyer informed in a timely manner. Again, being an ostrich will send your costs up, not down. Your lawyer cannot help you if s/he does not know what is going on.
- Always ask for advice before you take an important step – such as talking to “the other side” or signing a document. You might be undercutting your lawyer’s advice or committing yourself in a manner which works against you and cannot be undone.
- Although you should keep your lawyer up-to-date, resist the temptation to phone or email your lawyer every time you have a question, unless of course, you have a question which cannot wait. If not, write your query down. Wait until you have a few things to talk about and use your time with your lawyer more efficiently. You will be surprised how often a lot of seemingly different questions are inter-related. In the same way, gather together papers as needed, instead of sending them in one by one.
- Do respond to your lawyer’s requests in a timely manner. If s/he asks you to check a letter, find a document or provide instructions, s/he is doing so for a reason. Unnecessary delay might cost you an advantage, a chance to settle or even cause the court to order costs against you. Keep in mind also that every time your lawyer contacts you to ask for the same thing, it is costing you money.
- Listen to your lawyer. Each of the lawyers at Beger & Co has studied for years, has practised for years or even decades, has conducted court hearings and has successfully negotiated numerous deals. Although we have dealt with many cases of the same general sort as yours – every case is different, your circumstances are unique, the law is complex and ever-developing and every client deserves special consideration.
- Neighbours, friends, workmates and family members will sometimes tell you that they have been through just what you have and know what you should do. They have not and they do not! Well-meant advice from non-lawyers is likely to be confusing and just plain wrong. You are paying your lawyer because he or she is an expert whom you trust. Listening to, understanding – and following – the advice of that one qualified person will help reduce your worries and will contribute to the ease and speed of resolution of your legal matter.
- Finally, obviously it is best to pay any accounts when they fall due so that they do not build up and you do not incur interest. Ask your lawyer if you don’t understand the bill.
For further information please contact Peter on 8362 6400 or email Peter Jakobsen. Join our mailing list to receive updates and advice on current issues.