Minimize Legal Fees While Getting the Help You Need

By on October 15, 2018
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For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part (and possibly after), you will need a lawyer. There really is no avoiding it, and you are smart to seek qualified legal assistance when needed. The problem is lawyers are costly and legal fees add up quickly. Fortunately, there are ways to keep legal fees at a minimum while still receiving the help you need.

Ways to Minimize Legal Fees

The American Bar Association recommends lawyers explain their fee structure in writing before taking a case. Before you allow your lawyer to do any work, make sure you understand the costs for services and miscellaneous fees and charges. Lawyers may charge extra for tasks like copying documents, courier services, court filing fees, or research services, which are things you can do yourself.

Do Your Own Homework

You don’t have to pay a lawyer for absolutely everything. Here are few tasks you can take on that can help you reduce your bill:

  • Do your own research. Research your particular legal issue through publications offered by trade organizations and public interest groups. You can also find valid legal information written by lawyers for the general public on the web. Use common sense and ensure you are referencing legitimate resources.
  • Gather required documents. Ask your lawyer what documents you need and find them online or through city, state, or federal offices. Complete the forms as much as possible prior to meeting with your lawyer, and be prepared with any questions you might have.
  • Draft contracts yourself. If you do your research, you should have a pretty good sense of what information needs to go into your contracts and official documents. A quick internet search will most likely reveal a plethora of templates you can use for guidance.

Even though you are doing most of the work yourself, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask your lawyer for advice. Check in periodically to ensure you are on the right track.

Another money-saving option is to seek assistance from non-legal professionals, such as accountants who can help you prepare financial documents, real estate professionals who can assist with property valuation, or independent paralegals who can assist with uncontested legal actions like divorces or adoptions. Have your lawyer review all documentation written by non-legal professionals to ensure it is done correctly.

Minimize Time in the Law Office

Doing your homework and preparing documents for review will help you minimize time in your lawyer’s office and save you money. Be prepared with a list of questions and outstanding items to address during your meeting. If you have multiple legal issues, be prepared to address them at that time to avoid making repeat appointments.

Request A Flat Fee

Many lawyers will charge a flat fee for routine services with predictable outcomes like divorce or bankruptcy filing. Flat fees are paid up front. Talk to your lawyer and ensure you understand what services the fee includes before entering an agreement.

Ask for Discounts

If you have multiple legal issues or a continuing need for legal help, consider using the same lawyer and ask for a discount for your repeat business. Paying your bills on time will work in your favor; your lawyer may be more likely to extend you a discount if you show you are a good client.

You may also be able to find reduced legal fees through various organizations who have referral lists. Lawyers pay organizations to be on their referral lists and offer consultations and reduced fees in return.

Negotiate Alternative Payment Arrangements

The three most common fee structures are contingency fees, flat fees, and hourly rates.

  • Contingency fees – A contingency fee arrangement means that your lawyer receives a percentage of your settlement, usually between 20% and 50%. If you receive no money, then your lawyer collects no fees. A contingency fee arrangement is a good option if you do not have money for hourly fees.
  • Flat fees – A flat fee is the set amount you pay the lawyer for their services. As mentioned earlier, many lawyers charge flat fees for simple legal issues with predictable outcomes like divorce. A flat fee arrangement can be more economical than paying hourly rates.
  • Hourly rates – An hourly rate is the amount you pay the lawyer for one hour of their time. Your total cost will depend on how many hours they have worked on your case. Hourly rates vary according to a lawyer’s experience. An experienced lawyer may charge a higher hourly rate but complete the work more quickly. Before you agree to this fee structure, request a written estimate so you are not caught off guard.

Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for free or low cost legal services through special organizations. For example, you may be eligible for free representation in landlord-tenant or divorce cases. You can find public legal services through organizations and clinics online. However, make sure you pick one associated with an accredited law school.

A pre-paid legal plan is another option offered by some organizations. You pay a monthly fee in exchange for legal services when you need them. Fees and services associated with pre-paid plans vary by state law. If you are considering this type of plan, be sure you understand what is covered and how much it is going to cost you in your state.

It is not uncommon for a lawyer to ask for a retainer fee. A retainer fee is like a downpayment. It is paid up front and your lawyer uses it to cover expenses and fees related to your case. If you are going to work with a lawyer, make sure you have enough money up front for their retainer.

Whether you are estate planning, launching a new business, or facing a lawsuit, you can get the legal assistance you need without breaking the bank. Talking with your lawyer about their fee structure and services covered will shed light on the areas where you can save money. Don’t pay for tasks you can do yourself, but do know when to ask for help. Mistakes can be just as costly as a good lawyer.

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About Toni Banks

Contributing writer for FSN - As a professional writer for the Legal, Finance, and Technology industries, Toni understands there is an overwhelming amount of information available to you and wading through confusing terminology and difficult concepts can be difficult. Her primary aim is to offer focused, clearly-written information on current topics that resonate with her readers. Find Toni on !

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