Minimizing expenses requires an understanding of how lawyers charge for their services. The overwhelming majority of lawyers charge for their time at an hourly rate. They keep daily records of time spent on each of their clients. Typically these records are divided into minimum billing intervals. Every time your lawyer answers a phone call from you, a member of your family (with your permission), or your spouse’s lawyer, works on documents or correspondence relating to your case, participates in negotiations on your behalf, prepares for trial, or appears in court, the time so spent will be charged to you at this hourly rate. When you save your lawyer time, you save yourself money. Here are some steps you can take to minimize your legal costs:
1. Be organized. Your lawyer will need an accurate picture of your financial situation. Try to assemble a complete collection of relevant documentation and organize it in a coherent way. Important documentation includes personal and business federal and state income tax returns, bank statements, mortgages, loan statements, stock option plans, brokerage accounts, employee withholding statements (W-2’s), 1099 forms, pay stubs, and pension and other retirement statements. Other important documents include financial statements prepared in connection with loan applications, closing documents relating to the purchase and sale of a home, deeds, title certificates, registration statements for vehicles and boats, insurance policies and premium statements, and documentation of loans and gifts from family members and others. Your lawyer will also require information regarding trusts, inheritances, collectibles and collections, frequent flyer accounts and reward programs, rights in intellectual property such as copyrights, patents and trademarks and the fruits of the creative process, such as publishing a novel.