If you are one of those lucky people who seem to lead a charmed life and never encounter any difficulties, chances are that the need for affordable legal advice has never entered your mind. For the rest of us, requiring legal advice and being able to pay for it is not always the same thing. As a recent consultation taught me, even basic advice will set you back several hundred dollars, and retaining a lawyer will cost you much more.
When you find yourself in need of an attorney, there are several things you can do to minimize the financial impact. The first step is to be an informed consumer.
Do You Need and Attorney?
Before you go out and hire someone to represent you in a particular matter, find out if you even need an attorney. Too many people make the mistake of paying for someone to do something they could do themselves. For example, if you want to incorporate your business, chances are you can handle the process alone. Why double your costs – or more – by asking a lawyer to do it for you?
There are many states which allow you to file all sorts of papers without legal representation; from divorce to small claims court, an attorney isn’t necessarily required.
Do Your Homework
Most lawyers in a particular area and field will charge about the same amount for their time. There will always be some who charge more. Sometimes they are worth their pay, other times, not so much. Call around and get referrals from people who have needed similar legal counsel.
With a short list, make some calls and set up initial consultations to meet two or three attorneys. The first meeting shouldn’t cost you anything unless you get right to the legal issues you need addressed. Think of it as an interview for the lawyer in question. Once you decide which lawyer you wish to use, stick with them, barring unusual circumstances.
The best thing you can do to keep your costs down when you hire a lawyer is to be a good client and to let your attorney do their job. By allowing your representative to do their job, you reduce the fees you incur by constantly calling and checking up on their progress. The lawyer will apprise you of any progress on your case without you harassing them; I promise. As a good client, you should be forthcoming, keep copies of all records, and participate as part of the “team”.
The most expensive thing you can do to yourself is to change attorneys midstream. To retain a lawyer you pay a fee, often several thousand dollars. If you want to retain a new representative you will pay the same fee again. Additionally, you lose more money when you have to bring your new attorney up to speed, reprocess documents, and so forth.
Don’t Join Prepaid Plans
A final word of advice; don’t join those prepaid legal plans offered at work. Similar to life insurance, people who join such plans are gambling that they will need an attorney to represent them in a legal battle in the future. The plans are very limited and limiting; you only get so many hours with the attorney, for example.
You are better off saving the money in an account where it will accrue interest. That way you will have cash if you need to hire someone, or you can use the money for something else when the time comes.
Chances are you will only need an attorney or legal advice once or twice in your life. Be willing to pay for quality, do what you can yourself, and be cooperative; the savings can be significant.
This is another article taken from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook, where we offer practical money saving advice. Get your own electronic copy for free by signing up for the newsletter.