Hiring an attorney is a cost of doing business that should be managed, not avoided. Below are some ways to work with your attorney that can save you money.
If a project plan is not offered by the attorney, then the client should request one. A good project plan will lay out the estimated tasks, number of hours, dates of completion, and costs for completing the project. A thorough plan will indicate the tasks and requirements of both the attorney and the client. The plan can help answer the often asked question, “what’s next?”, thereby saving time by eliminating the need for multiple status calls.
Such a plan can also set the appropriate expectations when starting a relationship to resolve a legal matter. Accordingly, the plan may help a client identify tasks that have already been completed by the client, or could be completed by a more cost-effective resource such as gathering and organizing certain materials.
Impromptu client calls can be inefficient because an attorney may have to stop tracking time on one matter to take a call for another. This creates a situation where an attorney may not be prepared to answer the clients questions if the attorney has not recently reviewed the current status of the client’s file.
Such calls will be billed to the client and can often prompt the need for the scheduling of a follow-up call when the attorney can provide the client with more relevant details. Scheduling a time for a discussion will help ensure that your attorney has the client file available and is ready for a productive discussion.
Calling or e-mailing your attorney every time you have a question or comment can drive up costs quickly. A more efficient way to gather information is to schedule a time to have a conference with a set agenda to answer several questions.
Agendas can be as simple as a bullet point list of the client questions. If the agenda is set well in advance of the call, the attorney can be better prepared to answer the questions, and the client can use the agenda as a checklist to make sure that all of the questions are addressed.
Some clients may choose to handle certain matters on their own to save money and use an attorney only as an advisor along the way. This arrangement can work where a client is competent and efficient in handling certain tasks such as gathering information or negotiating business deal points. Knowing the right questions to ask and when to ask them is the key to using an attorney as an advisor.
Organizing the documents that are sent to and received from your attorney can save time by reducing the need to make multiple requests for documents. Also, retaining earlier versions of files can be helpful to compare or track changes as your matter progresses. Although your attorney will most likely keep well organized records of your matter, having your own system for organization can help save you time, and ultimately money, over the course of a project.
Discuss all of the relevant facts with your attorney. If you question whether a fact is relevant, it is better to disclose and discuss the fact early in a legal process. Holding back information from your attorney that you believe is important can jeopardize the outcome of your matter.
An attorney who learns about an important fact in the middle or late in a process can waste time by requiring additional research, redrafting, or even a complete change of direction in the course of resolving a problem. Clients should feel comfortable sharing even the "bad" facts of the matter so that their attorney can be the best advocate for them and resolve the matter in the most cost-effective manner.