10 Easy Tips & Hints – How to Save Money When Using a Lawyer

1.Why Use a Lawyer

A lawyer can add value to your business, save you time and money and help you manage your business legal risk.

Getting proper legal advice is very important for all businesses. It can stop you from making decisions would could cause you problems with your business in the future.

2.Shop Around

Ask your friends and business colleagues for recommendations of good lawyers.  Another good source of lawyers is your local law society; some recognise certain lawyers as experts of particular fields.  Sometime you can get an expert in a field at the same price as a generalist – so shop around.

You can’t assume that all lawyers are excellent – however having said that most will generally be sufficient to identify the key risks that are involved in your transaction.

Unless you are doing an extremely complex commercial transaction in a heavily regulated industry, then it is likely that most lawyers will be able to generally help you out.

3.To Tender or Not to Tender?

If you have a high level of legal spending then you might want to consider running a tender process.  Do they work? – probably not.  Do the benefits you receive outweigh the disadvantages? – sometimes.

If you spend millions of dollars on legal fees, then you probably need a large law firm with extensive resources to satisfy your needs, so your probably better off running a legal tender and achieving a discount of rack rate. 

If you do tender, then make sure you don’t agree to exclusivity, because it is through smaller firms and sole practitioners that you can achieve often a better result for a cheaper price, or the job you need for a fraction of the price.

4.Give the lawyer clear instructions.

If you do decide to cough up and pay for a lawyer, then you want to minimise the cost of the lawyer by providing very clear instructions.

You should instruct the lawyer in writing and make it clear what you want the lawyer to do and what you don’t.  Keep a copy of this instruction – so you can check it against the invoice later.

Write down as much relevant information as possible for the lawyer, spend 5 minutes on the telephone asking them what type of information they need to consider your issue.

You should also ask the lawyer whether there is something they think you should ask him or her to do for you given the circumstances – this puts it back on the lawyer to risk assess your own instructions.

5.Get a costs disclosure from the lawyer – and get a fixed price arrangement.

When you are sending your written instructions to your lawyer, make sure at the same time you ask for a quote from the lawyer – yes, a quote.

Gone are the days of hourly charging, or lawyers suggesting that a price range that isn’t binding of them if the hours exceed a certain amount..blah..blah..blah.

Sometimes you get a feeling that some lawyers aren’t really interested in giving their customers what they want.

Insist on a fixed price arrangement, if you can’t bring yourself to do this at least insist on them notifying you at 25%, 50% and 75% of their cost estimate, this helps you and then manage them to the costs disclosure – which the lawyer should see as being their budget for this work they are doing for you.

Following the above will save you money – so do it religiously.

6.Make it clear to the lawyer that you won’t pay more than the costs disclosure – and make sure you don’t.

If you want to use the lawyer again you need to be reasonable with this one.  Make it very clear at the very beginning, when they are providing their costs disclosure, that you are really after a fixed price quote that you want them to stick to.

Some lawyers can’t bring themselves to do this, and you still might want to use them, so you will need to live with some grey.

7.Don’t pay for Photocopying

Photocopying is the “fries” of the legal community.  Not only do you pay for the hourly rate of the person doing the copying, you also pay per page.

The big companies simply don’t pay for photocopying.  The margins of law firms are sufficient to absorb the small costs associated with photocopying.

8.Soft and Hard Copies of Final Documents

If involved in commercial transactions, ask for both a hard copy and a soft copy of the final signed documents.  It is surprising how often you might want to use sections, bit, from the final documents.

You can now get searchable PDFs of final documents, this is very handy and it is much quicker for you to search a PDF version of the final document on your computer then opening up a hard copy file and slowly searching through the document.

9.Keep Original Signed Copies of Documents Safe

Your time is precious, so use the above tip often and freely.  However, don’t forget to keep the original signed documents safe.  The ideal place is in a fire proof safe.  If you don’t have a fire proof safe, then perhaps you have a bank safety deposit box? 

If you don’t have any of these things, make sure you keep a copy of the original in one location and a certified copy of it in another – also keeping a scanned colour version of the final signed version of your agreement on your computer system and also a back up offsite.

10.Go Through Your Invoice Carefully

Make sure your lawyer hasn’t over charged you – check your invoice.  Make sure you haven’t paid unnecessary, not agreed to or silly disbursements.  If you find something unusual call the lawyer and ask them to explain it. 

After you have been through the invoice let the lawyer know that you have reviewed the invoice and are going to pay it – very few clients review their invoices before payment, this will prompt the lawyer to make sure he or she isn’t charging you for something they shouldn’t in the future – this will save you money.

source : 10 Easy Tips & Hints: How to Save Money When Using a Lawyer by Anderson, Michael; Australian Corporate Lawyer of the Year