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I am an assistant in a lawyer’s office. We all know that lawyers are expensive.  There are situations though that call for the experience and expertise of a professional and when hiring an attorney is necessary. By being an informed client, you may save quite a bit on attorney fees.  Not by hiring just any lawyer from the Pennysaver or internet, but by hiring a competent lawyer that is experienced in the area of law that your needs require.  Working for an estate planning and business lawyer has given me insight into the mess that can come from using the wrong professional to create your estate plan. It can be a costly mistake.  However, following the recommendations of a trusted and experienced lawyer now can provide peace of mind and ease the burden on your family later. In my time working in a law office there can be quite a range in costs for the preparation of the same legal documents. I have had the opportunity to see first-hand how quickly a client’s bill can grow and be more costly than need be.  Here are some sound tips to keep in mind to avoid expensive pitfalls.

CHOOSE YOUR ATTORNEY CAREFULLY:  Sometimes the first mistake is made by choosing the wrong attorney. This costly mistake can be avoided by doing a little research. Select an attorney who specializes in the area of law you need assistance with. Hiring the right attorney from the start can save you money by avoiding costly mistakes and unnecessary consultations. When it comes to estate planning or business law, asking friends or other trusted professionals to give you a referral is often the best way to start.

DISCUSS FEES, EXPENSES & BILLING:  There is a large range of costs associated with legal representation. Will you agree to paying a flat fee for services or choose to go for the hourly rate? Either way, it is vital to have a frank discussion about it.  Ask for a detailed estimate of the total costs, including legal fees and other expenses that may or may not be incurred. Make sure you understand the billing structure, get a clear picture of the potential costs involved in handling your matter and how you can impact those costs. This should be outlined in a Fee Agreement. Be clear and ask questions if you do not understand exactly what is being explained in the fee agreement before signing it. It is a contract between you and your attorney – think of this as a partnership to which your signature is the handshake.

Now that you have signed the fee agreement and are ready to get down to work, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Number one, always remember, Time is money. And there are fewer places to really feel this impact than at your attorney’s office.

BE ORGANIZED: Organize all relevant documents and information related to your case before speaking with your attorney. This will help your attorney work more efficiently, reducing billable hours. This includes reviewing any previous communications or documentation from your lawyer to ensure you have a clear understanding of the status of your matter. If anything, it helps you be prepared for meetings, and you can provide all necessary information promptly to avoid delays and additional charges. This leads directly to my next piece of advice.

COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY:   Time is Money. Time communicating with your attorney is one of the biggest variables relating to costs. Too little or too much are both bad. How to navigate this area is vital, so keep these next tips in mind. Learn how to communicate effectively by following agreed upon communication channels with your attorney. Is this email, or video calls? In person meetings or snail mail. If you understand the way your attorney communicates with you, you can avoid miscommunications or delays that may result in additional charges for repeated or missed calls, emails or even meetings.

LIMIT UNNECESSARY COMMUNICATIONS:  Avoid unnecessary phone calls, emails, or meetings with your attorney. Keep communication concise and to the point and provide only the necessary information. Be clear in your messages and try to avoid repetitive or redundant inquiries. This will reduce billable hours and save you money in the long run. Stick to the main points and again, provide only what is necessary. Also, it is very important to consolidate your Inquiries: Instead of reaching out to your attorney multiple times with separate questions or concerns, try to consolidate your questions into one communication. This way, your attorney can address all your concerns in a single response, reducing the need for multiple back-and-forth exchanges and saving you money on billable hours.

And finally, remember to review bills carefully. Ask for explanations of any charges that you do not understand. If you notice any discrepancies or errors, bring them to your attorney’s attention promptly. By keeping in mind these simple strategies you will be the smart ”A-list” client every attorney wishes for.

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Meet Margaret Tritch Buonocore

Margaret Tritch Buonocore began her legal career in Los Angeles as a litigator. She then moved to London where, after completing her LLM, she worked in international business and finance for almost a decade structuring corporate finance transactions, equity offerings, debt, and derivative instruments focusing on contract and securities law issues. Learn More…

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