Believe it or not, the best way to minimize legal fees and save money during a legal matter is to be a smart client! A smart client also maximizes the attorney’s ability to represent them. From a lawyer’s standpoint, the smartest clients share a number of characteristics:
1. Communication. Good attorney-client communication cannot be overrated. For delivery of the desired service, a client must be able to express their expectations clearly. There must be careful discussion of possible results and the cost/benefit analysis of pursuing a course of action. Exchanges must be honest and transparent in order to receive adequate representation. Immediate clear and full disclosure of information reduces research and billing time.
2. Accessibility. An easily available client who is prepared and gives a hundred percent to each exchange will save a ton on billing, since every attempt to reach the client or gather information will be a charge on the bill. Likewise, a responsible client reads what is sent in the mail and promptly responds. When the law office has to track down the client to follow up on requests, each attempt is billed.
3. Make the Most of the Legal Team’s Time. Deal with staff whenever possible, as they bill at a lesser rate than the attorney and have special training and access to the attorney. If a message must be left, make it detailed. Schedule and keep appointments; drop ins are not time-efficient. One email with a comprehensive list of questions rather than five separate phone calls save on fees.
4. Be Organized and Prepared. A smart client knows what they should be doing to prepare for court or appointments, and does not wait until the last minute. Smart clients present organized, neat, marked files, rather than pay the attorney to do it, and will prepare questions ahead of time, and take notes during meetings.
5. Understanding of Service Value and Time Required to Produce. A smart client has a clear understanding of the fact that it is the value received from the service which matters, not what it cost, and that a rushed job requires rework, and subsequently further billing.
6. Use Billing as a Status Giver. Instead of increasing your bill by contacting the legal team to find out what the status of the case is, a smart client uses their monthly, itemized bill as a status giver; careful review of the comprehensive billing statement will indicate he progress and status of the case.
7. Strategy Process Comprehension. Smart clients understand their role in establishing a strategy; there should be friendly and realistic debate about the issue to arrive upon a strategy, after which the smart client places trust in their attorney without second-guessing. Task micro-management most often produces poor results.
8. Team Player. After establishing a strategy with the attorney, a smart client reduces fees by sticking with the plan without changing direction or taking any unilateral action. They will know what is going on and keep track of dates and deadlines. And, it saves money to discuss any change of heart with the attorney rather than simply failing to follow through. Finally, a team player is open to ideas for settling the case out of court. A judge may not be able to give a client what they want or there may be problems with enforcement. There are great emotional and financial costs of going to court, and a smart client does not let pride get in the way of resolving their matter.
9. Attitude. Attorneys find that the client with the right attitude influences the legal team’s energy level when delivering client services. Mutual respect and appreciation, and recognition of talent and effort, most often induces better, more efficient services.