5 Money Saving Ideas to Lower Legal Fees
November 2nd, 2023
No one needs extra, unexpected expenses that challenge your budget and put your future goals at risk in divorce or otherwise. Choosing to retain a family law attorney to handle your divorce or navigate a high-conflict custody dispute may initially seem costly. However, this investment can ultimately prove invaluable in safeguarding your interests, ensuring a fair resolution, and lowering total legal fees. Before you agree to a settlement that isn’t in your best interest, try taking these steps to keep attorney fees in check.
Understanding Attorney Retainers Can Lead to Lower Legal Fees
When you first hire an attorney, you will likely sign a retainer agreement that promises you will pay a certain amount before the case begins to secure legal representation and get the lawyer working for you. It’s important to understand that unless you specifically agree to a flat fee, this retainer doesn’t necessarily represent the total cost of your case. In many cases, attorneys charge fees on an hourly basis that are billed against that retainer. No one – not even your lawyer – can know exactly how many hours of work your case will require. But there are some things you can do to streamline your case and lower your legal fees:
1. Stay Organized to Save Money
Your attorney should send you copies of everything in your case: court filings, documents received, letters to opposing counsel or parties, everything. If you keep an organized file of these documents, it will be much easier for you to stay on top of your case and avoid running up unnecessary legal fees. For example, if you are unsure when your next hearing is – calling your attorney to find out will cost you, but looking through your files is free. You can also check the status of your case online by using the Maryland Judiciary Case Search.
Staying organized at home is also a money saving tip. You should keep your own documents organized – emails, pay stubs, bank statements, household bills, etc. That way when they become relevant to your case, you will have the documents on hand. This will save money since your attorney will not need to file subpoenas or discovery demands to get copies from the bank, creditor, or your spouse.
2. Save Money by Saving Time: Keep Meetings Short and Productive
It is important to have a good relationship with your attorney, but that doesn’t mean they are your best friend or confidante. Depending on your case, you may not have to meet with your attorney often, but you will certainly have meetings at various points throughout your case. It’s easy to walk into a meeting, start talking, and get off topic. As the time ticks on, the related attorney fees add up.
This means if you are looking for ideas for saving money in your divorce, you need to make the most of your time with the lawyer. Come to your meeting with your homework done. If your attorney has not provided you with an agenda, ask for one. Make sure to bring in any documents your attorney requested. Write down your questions and bring them with you (or better yet, send them in advance). Think about which route you want to take with previously presented options and review any information (such as proposed settlement agreements) your attorney sends you ahead of time. That way, you can save time and save money by keeping the meeting focused on answering your legal questions and avoid paying for your attorney to watch you read.
3. Lower Legal Fees by Limiting Your Attorney’s Role
You retain your attorney to provide you legal advice and answer questions and concerns you have throughout your case. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to limit contact with their attorney to this advisory role. You may find yourself emailing or calling your attorney because you are upset, or just want to talk about your case, without any need for legal advice. Because your attorney is on the clock, any time you do this it only adds to your legal fees.
The next time you are about to send an email or call your attorney, ask yourself if you actually have a legal concern, or if you are upset about something else. If it’s the latter, try calling a friend, therapist, or other professional. Venting to your attorney may make you feel better, but it is a costly option. You should also feel free to assemble a divorce team, which may include an accountant, therapist, or divorce financial planner.
4. Money Saving Tip: Offer to Help With Your Case
A lot of times divorce and custody cases require work to be done that isn’t purely legal. There may be documents to be organized, records to review, discovery questions to be answered, and paperwork to be organized, copied, and sent to opposing counsel or the court. You can do much of this yourself as a way to save money.
Offer to obtain records and documents from schools, banks, and other sources so that they do not need to be requested by your lawyer. Take it on yourself to go through financial records and highlight rent payments or other relevant transactions. Get an electronic copy of interrogatories and type out your own responses to discovery requests. Each of these activities can cut significant time off your attorney’s billable hours, leading to significant money savings for you.
5. Listen to Your Attorney to Avoid Unnecessary Legal Fees
One of the most expensive mistakes you can make in a divorce or custody action is to ignore your attorney. Your attorney may ask you for the same information multiple times. They may tell you to do something, but then you do the complete opposite. This can lead to additional motions and court hearings, and all that adds up to extra attorney fees you have to pay!
To save money on legal fees, listen to your attorney. After all, you hired your attorney for legal advice. If your attorney asks you to provide information, don’t make her ask twice. If she tells you not to contact your spouse, don’t contact your spouse. Your attorney is looking out for your best interest and advocating on your behalf, but the more work your attorney has to do, the more it will cost!
Hiring an experienced divorce attorney can seem like it takes a lot of money. But there are money saving tips that you can use to lower your legal fees and stay in control of your finances during divorce. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our divorce attorneys know how to get you a fair resolution in your divorce that will protect you and your assets, without spending all your money on attorney fees. We have strategies to help you resolve the various issues that could arise in your divorce, saving you time, frustration, and possibly money. Call (301) 658-7354 or contact us today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
Categories: Finances & Taxes