Thursday, October 16, 2008

Saving Attorney Fees

I wrote a similar post on this subject which can be found here. The Modern Woman's Divorce Guide has a similar post in What is your divorce “bail-out” plan? which has the following points:

  1. Ask your lawyer to give you a “to-do” list that will allow you to reduce your legal costs. For example, as part of the divorce process in California you must exchange financial declarations with your spouse. These divorce forms are generally straightforward and can be completed by you with the help of Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Minimize the number of times each day or week that you communicate with your lawyer and his or her staff. If you have questions that are not urgent or time sensitive, write them down and ask all of your questions at once. Also, avoid calling your lawyer for psychological advice - therapists are generally less expensive and may be covered by your medical insurance.
  3. Reassess your legal positions. Ask yourself if the issues you and your spouse are litigating (fighting over in court) are really worth the costs. For example, if you are waging war in an effort to “win” the 55″ plasma television worth $5,000 and it will cost you $4,000 in legal fees to be declared the winner, reconsider your battle plan. Ask yourself if the casualties are worth the victory.
  4. Mediate, don’t litigate. Do this with a private neutral mediator or find a community mediation center that offers family mediation for no or low cost. If the mediation is unsuccessful, consider trying again with another mediator or, ask your lawyer if you can request a court settlement conference. Court settlement conferences are often facilitated by the Judge or Commissioner who will preside over your case if it goes to trial, and can be very instrumental in setting realistic expectations for the outcome of your case and encourage a settlement.
  5. Ask your lawyer to reduce his or her rates or shop around for a lawyer whose rates are more affordable.
I can agree with all but the last point. Lawyers' rates should have some direct correlation to their costs of maintaining their offices. Reducing fees may mean reducing services.

The proper time for considering a lawyer's fees are at the start of the case. Be sure to ask the lawyer not just what are their hourly rates but an estimate of the time estimated for the case. Just comparing hourly rates tells no one anything useful. Ask too if the lawyer will consider alternate fees.

By the way, I am not aware of any service in Indiana comparable to the one mentioned in 4 but we could use one.

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