I often tell my clients: “You should be much more concerned about sending your own children to college than mine.” Don’t waste money on legal fees you don’t need to pay, but pay for the legal advice you need. The issue is basic: Clients should demand to pay for the legal advice they need and Lawyers should be paid for the legal advice they provide. However, this is often overlooked by people who are by definition in need of help when they seek legal help — for some reason, too often people forget this is a service and a profession.
My family and my employees’ family are supported with the legal fees paid by our clients. When a client has trouble paying their bills on time, there is no money for my family and that of my employees. Further, the legal profession demands extensive education, the maintenance of credentials and knowledge of the law, and devotion of much of one’s waking hours to the service of others. You will likely not find an attorney that would choose to practice law rather than spend time with their family if not being paid. It is critical for clients to recognize that the attorney’s professional and personal reputation is placed on the line with each argument, every client’s case, and each action they take in representation of their client. Your attorney will and should be personally vested in the presentation of your case.
For this and the service your attorney is retained to provide, expect and demand that your attorney be properly, promptly, and adequately compensated. Every client of every lawyer has a problem for which they need help. Lawyers are here to help their clients, not take on their client’s problems as their own. Don’t expect your lawyer to finance your legal representation. If you don’t have the financial means for the representation you need, ask friends, family, or use traditional lenders. Lawyers make bad bankers and you really need your lawyer working for you, not being worried about whether or not they will be paid at the end of the day.
Frivolous lawsuit: def’n: When one or both parties are not paying their attorney. Period. Despite all the politics surrounding the issue of tort reform (which inevitably brings up the concept of frivolous lawsuits) a frivolous lawsuit is one in which there is no merit in fact or law. When litigants properly pay their respective attorneys the litigants and their attorneys are dissuaded from engaging in baseless conduct, push arguments without merit, or otherwise act against their financial interest. Attorney’s fees tied to work performed serves as a check on bad conduct that serves no purpose other than prolonging litigation and the client’s emotional pain. A client who is properly paying their attorney will recognize the cost-benefit analysis that should accompany all decisions during a legal case and act responsibly and reasonably.
Common sense tips for the reduction of legal fees:
1. Use therapists for therapy not your attorney. Although family law attorneys deal on a daily basis with the emotional issues confronting their clients each day, few are as well trained as professional therapists. Counselors and mental health professional generally charge less than attorneys, have more specialized knowledge, and may accept medical insurance. These professionals can work in conjunction with attorneys (thereby possibly protecting the communications) and may be able to assist the legal team in best meeting the mutual client’s goals. Family law matters by definition involve highly emotional, psychological, and related issues. By using the assistance of professionals to recognize and address these issues, the attorney can best represent the client’s interests and that of their family.
2. Keep a list for your questions. Do not call or email your attorney with each individual question that comes to mind. Keep a list handy and write down questions for your attorney. When you are otherwise meeting with your attorney or have several questions, then bring them up so that they can all be addressed together.
3. Transmit information to your attorney in writing (including email). Attorneys are consummate note takers and lawsuits involve a great deal of facts. Information conveyed to attorneys over the telephone and verbally at meetings will be taken down by the attorney, which notes are subject to misunderstanding and inaccuracies. By providing information to your attorney in writing, the information is conveyed and maintained in your own words following which your attorney can present follow up questions for clarification.
4. Organize information requested by your attorney. Your attorney will require substantial information and documentation. This information will have to be organized so that your attorney can review, learn, and understand the facts that support and may harm your case. At the outset of your case, you will likely understand your life, your finances, and your family better than your attorney. Time you spend organizing information needed for your case is less time your attorney and his staff will have to spend and consequently less attorney’s fees. If you have $1,000.00 to spend on a project, would you rather spend it on your attorney organizing a jumbled box of documents in preparation for a hearing or on learning the facts set out in the organized box of documents and crafting legal arguments based thereon that will serve your position?
5. Do not hide information from your attorney. Nothing hurts a case more than a surprise at trial or during negotiations. Your job is not to please your attorney or seek their approval. Your attorney has been hired to support you and your desires. But at the same time, never trust an attorney that refuses to criticize your bad conduct and tell you when your actions harm your case. Demand that your attorney tell you the good and bad of your case, including that such negative statements are meant to protect and facilitate the accomplishment of your desired outcome.
6. Respond to tasks delegated to you by your attorney promptly. If your attorney has asked for something, there is a reason for it. The sooner the attorney has the information, the quicker it can be used to help you.
7. Talk to and use paralegals whenever possible. It never ceases to amaze me how many people withhold information from paralegals to tell only me. Attorney-client confedentiality extends to the entire office staff. The paralegal working on your case knows the facts of your case and can provide an invaluable asset — all at a reduced hourly billing rate than the attorney. Demand that any lawyer you hire use paralegals to reduce your overall fees and put more minds on your case. You will be glad you did.
For more information or if we can assist you with a legal matter, visit our website at: www.EakerLawFirm.com