We understand that engaging a lawyer can be daunting, but it is sometimes unavoidable. When you do need to seek legal advice, the last thing you want is a nasty surprise when it comes to the fees. However, there is the real potential for legal costs to escalate if a matter is not managed properly.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you minimise your costs and ensure your legal issue is dealt with as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

1. Understand and monitor your costs

Your lawyer should provide you upfront with an estimate of their fees and other out of pocket costs (disbursements) for the work to be completed, whether for the whole matter or stages. Make sure you know how your fees will be charged. You might consider asking your lawyer to fix their fee to provide certainty.

Ask your lawyer for itemised invoices and regular cost updates to assist with monitoring your fees.

The actual legal costs you incur will be affected by several factors, including:

  • the complexity of your matter;
  • the attitude of the other party or their lawyer – an unreasonable, uncooperative, unresponsive, obstructive or combative other party will negatively impact costs;
  • unexpected volumes of correspondence, extensive negotiations or unanticipated applications;
  • unavoidable delays, such as delays in the court process;
  • the consistency of your instructions; and
  • your attitude and propensity to resolve matters amicably.

Some of these factors are within your control – others not so much, unfortunately. 

Before signing a cost agreement with a lawyer, read and ensure you understand the agreement. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer to explain anything you do not understand. You are entitled to seek independent legal advice on the cost agreement if you have any concerns.

2. Be organised and help your lawyer out

Compiling all the available information and documents for your lawyer in an organised manner, in date order and in a format that can be dealt with easily by the lawyer will save them time and reduce your costs. Ask your lawyer what format they would like to receive documents in and send it in a bundle rather than in bits and pieces.

Avoid charges for printing or copying documents by providing your lawyer with a copy of the documents, in date order, in a folder. It can also be helpful to include an index of the documents.

Try to avoid sending countless documents attached to emails that need to be screened, sorted and printed, and consider whether the information you are providing your lawyer is relevant.

The more leg work you can do, the less your lawyer will need to charge you.

3. Be upfront and honest with your lawyer from the beginning

Your instructions and communications with your lawyer are confidential and protected by solicitor/client privilege, so be upfront and honest with your lawyer from the outset to save you costs in the long run. Sometimes this will involve giving your lawyer information which might not be helpful to your case.

Give clear and full instructions. Your lawyer cannot provide you with proper and accurate advice, or deal with your case in the most efficient way, if you have not provided proper instructions and accurate information. 

If you are not full and frank with your lawyer, it can compromise your case, the relationship with your lawyer and result in increased costs. 

4. Prepare for meetings

The more time you spend with your lawyer, the higher your costs will be.

Before meetings or telephone calls with your lawyer, collect your thoughts and make a list of questions you want to ask. This can assist to ensure the information exchanged is valuable and keep the meeting on track. Take notes during the meeting or call, noting the answers to your questions.

5. Manage your communication with your lawyer

The frequency and content of your communications with your lawyer has a direct impact on your legal costs.

Avoid repeatedly emailing or calling your lawyer. If you have questions or issues to raise with your lawyer, consolidate your thoughts and questions into one email, call or meeting. Lawyers often charge in 6 minute units. One longer meeting or phone call is usually cheaper than multiple brief calls or emails on your matter.

We understand that when you have legal issues or are involved in litigation, it can be a very stressful time. However, avoid using your lawyer as your therapist. While most lawyers are empathetic and understanding of the stress you may be feeling, there are more appropriately qualified and cost-effective supports available. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a therapist, counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist to support you through the process.

6. Use a specialist

There are many different areas of law. It is unrealistic for a lawyer to be familiar with the complexities and developments across all areas of law.

Engage a lawyer who specialises in the area of law relevant to your legal matter. Those with experience can likely provide a higher quality service, more efficiently, in a shorter time frame, which results in less cost.

7. Don’t ignore your lawyer

Try to respond as promptly as possible to your lawyer’s requests for documents, information or instructions. If your lawyer has to follow you up or send reminders, it will inevitably add to your legal costs.

Seeking assistance from a lawyer isn’t the cheapest exercise so take the time to read communication from your lawyer and consider taking the advice received on board.

8. Don’t let emotion get the better of you

Although it can be difficult, try to avoid letting emotion cloud your decision making. Take a pragmatic approach to your matter. Be prepared to compromise and make concessions where it is in your interests to do so.

9. Look at the big picture

Be clear about what you want to achieve. It can be hard to let go of the little things but try to avoid getting stuck on insignificant issues.

The steps you take should be proportionate to the issue. Avoid jumping down every legal rabbit hole, particularly where it is unlikely to advance your case or the costs of pursuing the argument outweigh any advantage gained.

10. Resolve disputes in a timely manner

Whilst necessary in some cases, litigation is expensive, stressful and should generally be a last resort.

Negotiation and mediation in many cases can save time, and therefore, money. It gives you more control over the outcome and may result in more flexible solutions than what the Court might order.

The earlier you can resolve your matter, the more you will save on legal fees.

TGB Lawyers are here for you

For more than five decades we’ve been finding our clients practical, cost-effective and intelligent solutions to life’s legal problems.

Find out more about the services we provide to the people of Wanneroo and Perth’s northern suburbs here. To arrange a free initial appointment, contact us on (08) 9211 5800, send us an email at wanneroo@tgb.com.au or pop in to see us at Level 3, 30 Dundebar Road, Wanneroo.

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