There are several ways you can reduce your legal bills and save money on your divorce with just a little bit of effort:
- Respond to your lawyer promptly. If your lawyer has to get an answer from you on something and it takes six contacts before you answer, that’s costing you money.
- Respond succinctly. If you have a question or group of questions for your lawyer, keep it succinct and have an agenda going into a meeting or call with the lawyer. Using email can also reduce your bill because if you write an email with 5 questions in it, your lawyer may only charge you 6-12 minutes to respond depending on the depth of the answer, but the same series of questions by phone could take half an hour.
- Limit meetings with the attorney. Email is fastest, phone is next, and meetings are slowest to convey the same information or get the same questions answered. This is just the nature of the interaction. You should be able to get in and meet with your lawyer when you need to, but limiting meetings to an as-needed basis can substantially reduce your costs.
- Also limit status requests. If you haven’t heard from your lawyer in awhile, you can certainly follow up. But there are periods of time in a divorce when nothing is happening, and your lawyer may be being sensitive to your bill by not calling to tell you that.
- Gather your own materials. Don’t make your lawyer chase down every bit of information that is needed. If they say they need medical bills, call your doctor and get them. Don’t make your lawyer’s office chase the doctor down, fill out forms to get the documents released, and so on.
- Use the paralegal. If you have a question or concern, or you need help with paperwork, use the paralegal if the firm has one and be billed at a much lower rate. If he or she can’t answer you, they will get the answer from the lawyer.
- Make decisions from your head not your heart. The single biggest cost to clients is vengeance. If you are making your decisions out of a desire to hurt your ex as opposed to a desire to help yourself, you are costing yourself money. Some lawyers will encourage this in you, because they know that if you are angry you will keep spending to fight and they will make more money. A good lawyer will tell you when your position is counter to your own interests, and will encourage you to do what is best for you in the long run, and that is rarely ever “getting” him or her. An important point: you will never be vindicated in family court. No one walks out of family court having won. If you get everything you ask for, you have still lost something…time with your children, money, sleep. The job of a good family attorney is to mitigate your loss. That sometimes means waging war, in order to get your goals met. However, waging war just to do it is a waste of your resources.
- Tell your lawyer everything. It costs money to fix damage that is done by a lawyer trying to work a case who does not have all the information they need to do so. Surprises, particularly ones that pop up on a day of court, are every lawyer’s least favorite thing. Even if you are embarrassed by the facts, your lawyer needs to have them. Their job is not to judge you, it’s to help you. If your lawyer is judging you, find another lawyer. But you do need to let them know everything that might pop up and cause a problem.
- Be on time. If you have a court hearing and your lawyer has to wait half an hour for you to appear, that can equal an hour or half a day or more because the judge may knock you to the bottom of his or her docket list. Always be on time. You can’t control if your adversary is late or if you are low on the list, but at least you can control that.
- Help your lawyer help you. Be forthcoming with information, show up to meetings with all documentation requested, fill out forms in a timely fashion and be ready to answer questions when needed. The least expensive divorces are those where both sides are prepared to assist in the development of their case. The second least expensive is where at least one side is.
To learn more about what you can expect from your divorce lawyer, check out Lynda’s new book, Breaking Up: Finding and Working with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney.
For a free consultation about your legal matter, call us at (856) 227-7888, or contact us at [email protected]. We have locations in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties, and are happy to discuss your legal options.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.