It is no secret that legal fees can add up quickly and be much higher than anticipated for some unwary clients.  But rather than shopping around for the cheapest attorney—which is a terrible way to choose an attorney and can lead to dire consequences—follow these five simple tips to save time and money and get the best value out of your legal services.


Keep a Journal. 

JournalingKeeping a journal will do several things for you, but the most valuable is making a permanent record of happenings that you find important to your case.  Once your journal is created, it is a "living and breathing" document that you can add to as your case progresses towards final outcome.  The best part about journaling is that you can continue to refer to your journal throughout your case and refresh your memory about important dates, names, and facts as you experienced them.  This will save you money because it keeps your facts and your perspectives organized so that when your attorney needs information about an important date or event, you have readily accessible in an instant.

Journaling might also help you avoid one of the most common and expensive pitfalls of new clients—using lawyers as therapists instead of as the legal strategists that they are.  This pitfall is especially common in contested divorce cases because of the highly emotional and very personal nature of issues that need to be settled in these types of divorce cases.  This emotionality can sometimes lead a client to want to vent or cry for extended periods of time to their attorneys.  And while most divorce attorneys expect to see this behavior on occasion, they gain very little useful information from it.  The better and cheaper habit to get into is to journal about it.  Writing it all down will allow the time necessary to process the emotions and calm down before speaking with your attorney.  Approaching conversations with your lawyer in a calm, collected, and organized way leads to increased productivity and shorter meetings which, in turn, will save you money.   


Update Your Lawyer Via Email Instead of by Phone.

If you need to give your lawyer an update, do it via email.  An email is less disruptive than a phone call and provides a tangible, visible record of the facts or events that the lawyer can reference later.  When and how often you should send email updates can vary widely depending on the type of case, what stage of the case you are in, and attorney preference.  For example, in a new divorce case, there may be more updates in the beginning as information is gathered, while less updating might be necessary if the case is simply waiting for a statutorily imposed timeframe to pass.  Who you send the update to might also vary.  Solo attorneys might want you to email them directly with updates, while bigger firms with multiple support staff might have you send updates to one particular paralegal or secretary.  It is important to ask your attorney about their preference because, ultimately, it is your attorney who will need to make use of the information provided in the updates. 

Reviewing your journal and looking for items you wrote about but forgot to ask your lawyer about is a good way to start thinking about what you might put in an update email. But, keep in mind that these emails do not take the place of your journal, nor do they serve the same purpose.  Asking yourself, “what does my lawyer need to know that will help my case?” is a good check to perform before hitting the send button on the update email.  This will allow you to make sure your email is valuable to the attorney and not a venting session or an overshare.


Schedule All Calls Ahead of Time. 

Barring emergency, you should avoid randomly calling your lawyer to discuss an ongoing case.  If your lawyer has shared a phone call scheduling policy with you as their client, make sure that you review it—and that you respect it.  When lawyers create such policies, it is very likely because they know best about how and when they get their best work done and have taken the time to organize their days around their productive times.  So, while phone call rules may seem overly restrictive to new clients, they are actually a good indicator that your lawyer has spent some time thinking about how to streamline their processes, be more productive, and produce the highest quality work.  Having streamlined processes in place is a very effective way to save clients money—but only if clients adhere to the rules in place. 

How to go about scheduling some phone time with your lawyer will vary from firm to firm.  Some lawyers have online portals where clients can do multiple things such as exchange secure messages, provide needed documents, and schedule meetings or phone calls.  Other lawyers allow clients to schedule themselves for phone calls to discuss their cases by using software like Calendly or Bookings, for example.  A few lawyers may simply choose to limit phone calls to a certain time of day, such as between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Ask about your lawyer’s preference or policy and then stick to it. 

Even if your lawyer has not asked you to follow any call scheduling rules, it is imperative that you understand that you will always have a more productive conversation when your lawyer is (1) expecting your call, and (2) knows what your call is about.  This is because most lawyers are managing multiple cases at any given time, and it can be extremely difficult to shift focus away from a focused task they may be working on the moment the phone rings and then instantly be expected to remember every important detail of your case.  So, instead of an unplanned “phone call attack,” take some time to write down some bullet points or specific questions for a planned call.  If you find that being specific seems impossible, or if you are having trouble narrowing down what you want to communicate to your lawyer, that could be an indication that you should try journaling first.


Offer to Do Some of the “Legwork.” 

The ability of clients to do and the availability of “client-doable” tasks varies from case to case and from lawyer to lawyer.  Some kinds of cases have many opportunities for a client to do some of the busy work, such as gathering records or making lists, while others do not.  Taking on these types of tasks when they are available can help lower costs because rather than pay administrative staff to do the tasks, the client takes on the responsibility and therefore is not charged.  But not all attorneys allow this practice.  Solo practitioners tend to be more willing to allow clients to take on certain tasks in aid of their own cases because they usually have less support staff and can use the help.  But that does not necessarily mean that if your lawyer works in a bigger firm, they automatically will not allow clients to help in their own cases.  The key here is to ask your lawyer what needs to be done and if you can help.


Review Your Invoices Carefully. 

While checking invoices may seem like too obvious to be included in a money-saving tip list, it is surprising how many people just pay their bills without asking what they are paying for and whether there might be a discount or promotion available when it comes to legal fees.  You should treat your legal bill like you would any other.  Study it and ask questions.  While you cannot change your lawyer’s hourly billing rates, you can certainly question what work was done or ask for an explanation about why a task or filing might have been necessary.  Occasionally, these types of reviews can lead to discovery of errors such as accidental double billing.  If it becomes clear that an error was made, your lawyer should correct the bill, saving you money.  Some lawyers will even offer a good-will discount when errors are discovered to show that they take billing errors seriously and to show that they value their clients.

By making a habit of doing one or more of these things, you will increase the efficiency and productivity of the legal services that you receive.  When things run smoothly and efficiently, it takes less time to accomplish the same work or task, saving you money.  


Family Law Attorney serving Jenks, Tulsa and surrounding Counties

Diana Cupps is a family lawyer serving clients in Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Bixby, Sapulpa, Glenpool, Owasso, Sand Springs, Wagoner and more. Contact Diana the Lawyer online or call (918) 605-4826 to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.  Call Troy for questions about billing and payment options, at (918) 932-2456. Check out our Google Reviews.