Don’t get me wrong – when you need legal advice, cheaper is not always better. Shopping for an attorney by price alone may not be the best strategy when you are facing important, life-changing events such as a criminal charge, a serious personal injury, or a difficult divorce. Nevertheless, you can save yourself some money by following a few of these tips.
- Don’t assume that the largest law firm in town is the best. Large law firms tend to charge more than small firms and sole practitioners. If your legal needs don’t involve large corporate mergers, international business deals, or complex class action litigation, you may not need to hire a law firm whose billing rate starts at $500 per hour. Look for a smaller local firm that may be able to offer more personalized service while billing at a much more affordable rate.
- Sign up for a free consultation. Not all lawyers offer free consultations, but many do, especially those in the personal injury field. If you need a Niagara Falls personal injury lawyer, you may want to talk to more than one firm before you choose the one that is right for you. Be sure to ask about their fee schedule and the possible costs that could be involved with your case.
- Be wary of slick TV ads. If you are injured by a medical device or product, you have probably seen ads on television for lawyers who handle cases like yours. You may even receive advertisements in the mail from law firms who want your business. Look at the fine print – Usually, the law firms that advertise on TV have to hire local attorneys to handle cases in your state, so why not eliminate the middleman? If you are in Massachusetts, for example, only a Massachusetts attorney may represent you in a Massachusetts court. Find an attorney in your state who has experience in the type of litigation you may need.
- Make sure you really need an attorney. Some states allow non-attorneys to handle certain tasks, like title searches and real estate closings. These services may be less expensive through a title company or other authorized provider.
- Remember: When you are being billed by the hour, the clock starts ticking as soon as your attorney picks up the phone, or as soon as you walk into his/her office. There is nothing wrong with that, but you have some control over how long your meetings and phone calls will take. Don’t waste your attorney’s time. In a divorce matter, for example, you do not want to pay $250 per hour to make your attorney listen to petty complaints about your spouse. Save that for your friends. Your attorney needs to know facts that are relevant to your case. Try to separate those from petty annoyances that will have no significance to your final outcome.
Write down a list of questions before you talk to your attorney. The less time you spend talking aimlessly while trying to remember what you wanted to ask, the less expensive your visit or phone call will be.
Don’t ask your lawyer to do tasks that you might be able to do. If you need to produce bank statements, for example, you can get them yourself rather than paying your attorney to do it. Ask your attorney if there is anything you can do; if the answer is “no,” then stand back and let him do his job!