Updated: May 12, 2019
You may have read my previous post, “Do I Have to Have an Attorney?” and realized you need one, but now how to afford one?
Here's an insider’s view of surprising ways you can reduce the cost of attorney’s fees when you’re paying by the hour. This first set of tips is related to reducing the overhead of handling your file—something most people never think about.
1) Don’t use staples. Every document you bring to your attorney is probably going to be scanned, copied, etc. If you staple them together, someone will have to remove the staples to run them through the copier/scanner. It takes longer to remove one staple than it does to make the copy/scan. You can cut the time to open your file significantly simply by not stapling your documents.
2) Make copies. Take your attorney their own copy, not the only original (or copy) you have. Handing your attorney a well-organized set of copies of documents relevant to your case that they can keep (and telling them “I made this set of copies for you to keep”) will eliminate the need to make a copy. Your attorney will probably still have someone scan the paper documents so they have an electronic copy (see number 1), but not having to print the documents too will reduce the time it takes to do this. This has the added bonus of giving the attorney a clean, full page copy of the documents you have that will run through the copier/scanner without jamming (jamming can take a lot of time!). Crumpled, bent, torn, odd-sized documents take considerably longer to copy and scan. Fedex Office, your local library, your home office printer can provide a way to make copies for significantly less cost to you than if your attorney's staff has to do it.
3) Think “unique.” Give your attorney only 1 copy of each document you think is relevant to your case at the initial meeting and only 1 copy of any documents your attorney requests as your case progresses. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to compare documents that appear to be duplicates to determine if they are identical or not.
4) Organize for a stranger. People often bring in stacks of documents that are either not organized at all or are organized in a way that makes no sense to anyone but them. Group together like-documents (all the bank statements from the account that shows the issue, for example, in chronological order, then all the receipts related to that issue in chronological order vs. trying to put the receipts with the statements). Everyone has their own logic to filing just as everyone thinks they’re a better driver—don’t try to organize beyond the obvious. The attorney and her/his staff will reorganize as they see fit, but grouping together like-documents chronologically always helps with finding things quickly.
5) Label well. Making sure the documents you’ve organized are clearly labeled goes a long way. Without obvious labels, staff, or, worse, your attorney, will spend a lot of time reading each document trying to figure out what it is and how it applies to your case. That time costs you money. Clear and obvious labels will reduce the amount of time spent figuring out what you’ve giving them.
Next up, Top 5 Ways to Reduce Attorney's Fees Before the First Meeting.