Effective Use of an Attorney
Cost-Effective Tips on Using an Attorney
1. Communication. This is the key to working with an attorney. Make sure to communicate as clearly and concisely as possible with your attorney. If you are not sure the attorney understands your needs or desires, ask the attorney to repeat them back to you. Make sure you and your attorney have an understanding about the best way to communicate. Some attorneys prefer emails, some prefer telephone calls; other attorneys would rather meet in person. Maintaining open lines of communication is critical to a good and cost-effective attorney-client relationship.
- Meetings: Come prepared to a meeting. In advance of the meeting, ask the attorney what materials you should bring, and then bring ALL of the requested materials. Write down questions that you need to ask the attorney so you don’t forget them. It may be better to postpone a meeting if you cannot obtain all of the materials or otherwise prepare for your meeting.
- Telephone Calls: Before calling your attorney, organize your thoughts and prepare a list of questions for the attorney. When you make the phone call, have any documents you need to refer to available by your side.
- Emails: As with any other communication, make sure your email is organized. The more complete the email, the more likely the attorney can read and respond completely to your request, questions or concerns. Usually one comprehensive email is preferable to several short emails throughout the day.
2. Fees and Costs. In general, attorneys are supposed to convey to you in writing the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which you will be responsible. Make sure you understand how the attorney bills the attorney’s time.
- Ask the attorney for tips on how to minimize the time spent and maximize the work produced by the attorney.
- Ask about what work you can perform to reduce the time spent by the attorney. For instance, it often may be helpful for you to draft a proposed letter and have the attorney revise it, print it on the attorney’s letterhead, and sign it. In other cases, you could perform some basic research or investigation into the facts of a particular situation. However, ask your attorney before you proceed.
- Remember, if you are asking your attorney to do something – answer a question, prepare a document, or follow-up with someone, you are asking that attorney to spend time on your matter. Time equals money, and you should expect to be charged for the attorney’s time performing the action.
3. Decision-Making and Roles. Recognize the areas of control between you and your attorney. Your attorney is a legal advisor, and the attorney often limits his/her advice to legal matters. You are the expert in your personal or business matters. Although an attorney might make suggestions, understand the roles. In the end, you are the decision-maker as to the objectives of any legal representations. Be prepared to make those decisions after consulting with your attorney. Your indecision can cause attorney fees to rapidly balloon.