I think our firm does a better job than most in trying to keep our clients’ legal costs down, and in being sympathetic to the notion that individuals do not have unlimited funds with which to resolve their legal troubles. Still, as with any firm, we do occasionally have clients who conclude their representation with us being dissatisfied with the magnitude of their legal bill. Here are some of the tips these folks were told (likely on multiple occasions), but probably did not heed:
1. It is most attorneys’ protocol to charge for each in-person meeting, phone call, or email by the hour. While we always encourage our clients to keep us informed of recent developments and like to hear from you, it is not cost-efficient to provide your attorney with a play-by-play of your life.
2. Throughout the course of your case, your attorney is going to ask you to gather certain information and to respond to certain documents. To the extent you can do so timely and completely, you will keep your legal fees down. If we have to ask you for certain information and documentation more than once, or flat-out do your “homework” for you, your legal bill will almost certainly be higher than if you had actively participated in your own case.
3. When you are providing us with information and documentation, provide it to us in the most organized, straightforward manner possible. If your attorney has to spend time organizing or decoding your submission before she can analyze or work with it, she will likely have to charge you for her time spent doing so.
4. If your attorney contacts you by telephone but is not able to reach you, call her back! Don’t wait until she calls you back again. Also, if you miss her when returning her phone call, leave a number at which you can be reached and include some times at which you will be available at this number. Remember: while your case is very important, your attorney has a number of other clients and may not always be in the office and available to speak with you.
5. If your attorney says that she is going to provide you with a response or a document to review, or call you back, by a certain date or time, give her sufficient time to do so before you do your follow-up. It is one thing to call for a status update if you have not heard from your attorney in awhile (it does happen!), but it is another to call every hour on the hour, especially when the deadline set by your attorney has not yet passed. Remember: typically phone calls to your attorney (or her assistant) are billed by the hour.
In the end, please keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, we attorneys do not wish to run up your legal bills. In fact, it is difficult for many of us (myself included) to ask a client for more money because we know that finances are tight. As a result, do us all a favor, and try to follow our advice so as to keep your legal costs down. In the end, we’ll all be thankful!