Family Law...Tips for Keeping Legal Fees Down

Ashley Donald – January 2017

At this time of year, we are all looking for a way to minimize our outgoing cashflow. Between paying off the Christmas Visa bill, and maintaining our budget-friendly new years resolutions, money can be a bit tight. That being said, ensuring you have the best legal representation you can is crucial to ensuring your rights and obligations are being addressed.

Here are ten tips for keeping your legal fees down, now and all year round:

1. Think twice before venting your frustrations via email to your lawyer.
You are charged for your lawyer’s time. Email can be a quick and easy way to provide information or ask questions of your lawyer. Use email in this way to ask pointed questions or provide facts (see below). Avoid venting about your frustrations. The more your lawyer must read, the longer it takes and the more you get charged. Keep emails concise, clear and informational.

2. Don’t book a meeting when a phone call or email will do.
Face-to-face meetings with your lawyer are very important to build a strong client-solicitor relationship, however they are not needed as often as you may think. If your meeting will require a half hour or hour, think about the cost and book a meeting. If you only need a few minutes of your lawyer’s time, consider a telephone call or email instead.

3. Keep Emotions out of it (as much as you can).
Separating or divorcing is a very stressful and emotional time. It is not easy to “keep emotions out of it”, but doing so can help you save thousands of dollars in legal fees. The more issues that are contested during separation or divorce, the more work your lawyer must do, and the more money you must spend. Decide what is most important for you and your family, what your needs are, and try to avoid dragging out negotiations by being reasonable in your requests. Trials are incredibly costly – negotiating out of court will always save money in the long run.

4. Consider alternative avenues.
Negotiation is a great alternative to litigation; however, it isn’t the only avenue at your disposal. The collaborative law process, mediation, or arbitration can be time and cost saving measures. Keep an open mind and discuss these options with your lawyer to see if any of them may be right for you.

5. Be aware of your choice of communication.
Most lawyers bill in six-minute segments, so consider maximizing those six minutes. Each time you call or email, you will likely be charged for six minutes, even if your call or email takes two. Instead of calling or emailing four times, you’ll save money by writing down questions as they come to you, and making one call to your lawyer to discuss all your questions at once. Similarly, a concise email with numbered questions may also be effective.

6. Use the services of a psychologist, counsellor or mentor.
Because separating or divorcing is such a stressful and emotional time in your life, we always recommend you also use the services of a psychologist, counsellor or other professional to support your mental health. This helps to create healthy boundaries with your lawyer, and saves you the money of paying him or her to listen to you vent your frustrations. Our lawyers are here to help you navigate through this emotional time, however in many circumstances a professional in mental health or emotional support may be better suited to help you in this way (and often covered by insurance).

7. Choose the right lawyer for you and your concerns.
A lawyer who is experienced in family law and who spends most of their time doing family law will save you money in the long run, as opposed to someone who rarely or occasionally takes on family matters. Understanding how the Family Division or Family Courts work and run can save time and costly re-work. A seasoned family lawyer has precedents at their disposal and utilizes their office staff to minimize the time that they end up charging you.

8. Be honest and forthcoming about your expectations and any requested information.
Your lawyer can only give you advice on the information you give them, and the evidence you present. Not being honest and forthcoming to your lawyer can lead to wasted time, incorrect or incomplete advice and costly re-work.

9. Keep yourself organized, and present organized information to your lawyer.
Don’t pay for your lawyer or his or her assistant to sort through tax and financial information that is disorganized or cluttered. Do the work yourself to sort and organize your information to save your lawyer time, and you money.

10. Respond to your lawyer’s requests in a timely manner.
The more often your lawyer needs to call or email you to remind you of information they are waiting from you, the more you pay.

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