Before handing documents over to your attorney's office, organize them yourself! The more time the attorney or paralegal has to spend sorting through your documents, the more you'll be billed.
Make Your Own Copies
Our office charges clients $0.20 a page for photocopies. While this may not seem like a lot, it can add up! Often three sets of copies are needed (Judge, opposing counsel, and your attorney). By simply making your own copies at home or at Kinko's, you could be reducing your bill!
Know Your Finances
One of the things attorneys will often spend a lot of time on is reviewing your finances. Don't just drop off your bank statements for the attorney to review and file away! Make a spreadsheet of all accounts, assets and debts: checking, savings, investment, how much your house is worth and the balance of any credit cards or loans. Organize your statements by account, type, and date. Both of these will save the attorney time and you money.
Redacting your own financial documents is another easy way to save on attorney's fees. On all financial documents (bank statements, taxes), black out the account and social security numbers with a Sharpie, leaving visible only the last four digits for identification purposes. Doing this yourself means the paralegal won't have to.
Only Email/Call When Needed
You're probably nervous, but contacting your attorney's office adds to your monthly bill. Many clients will send numerous emails or call throughout the day. Reading and responding to an email can cost anywhere from $13.00 to $84.00, depending on who's responding and how long it takes. Impending legal action can be very stressful and emotionally draining, so make sure you contact the attorney's office regarding legal matters and if you need to vent, call a friend or family member instead. That being said, if you do need to contact your attorney's office, do so through their paralegal. Often the paralegal's rates will be half of the attorney's! Consider whether or not it is easier/faster to just pick up the phone and talk for 5 minutes than to email back and forth all day. If you do want to send an email, put all of your questions and comments in one email instead of multiple ones.
Keep Your Head Out of the Sand
In the stress of litigation, one mistake clients often make will be to ignore phone calls or emails from their attorney's office because they aren't ready to deal with what's going on. However, ignoring an email will only lead to additional follow up emails. The first email might cost $13.00, but if you ignore that one and the paralegal sends you two more to follow up, all of a sudden the bill jumps to $39.00.
Pick Up Your Own Court Documents
If there is an old court document that your attorney needs but you don't have, don't make the attorney's assistant go down to the courthouse. This is something that you can easily get yourself for as little as $0.25 a page. The paralegal's time will be upwards of $100.00 an hour to walk down, print the document, and return to the office.
Open & Review Your Bill
Always open and review your monthly bill, even if you still have part of your retainer in trust. Often a client will be surprised when their retainer has run out and will request all of their past bills to see where the money went. These are mailed every month, so you should have a copy. Reviewing your bills each month will also give you an idea of how you might be able to reduce some of your legal fees.
When "calling around" for the right attorney for your case, make sure to ask the paralegal some initial questions in helping you decide to make the right choice.
Some questions are:
Does the attorney take free consultation calls?
Is there a flat rate fee for consultation? If so, how much and long does it last?
If you decide to hire that attorney, how much is his/her hourly rate?
How much does the attorney require for a retainer? (This will always depend on how complex your case might be).
How much does the attorney bill out his/her paralegal?
Remember: Paralegals cannot give out legal advice. Any legal based questions should be directed to the attorney.