Most lawyers are cautious about trying to keep their clients’ costs to a manageable level and point out ways for their clients to save some money. Following up on last week, here are a few more general suggestions:
• Watch out for photocopying costs. Most law firms will charge 40 or 50 cents per page for photocopies. If there is a large package of financial documents or a house appraisal that your lawyer needs to send to opposing counsel, consider dropping off two copies you made at home or at a less expensive service.
• Hire another expert. Instead of having your lawyer complete all of the financial statements, calculate your budget and run support numbers at their hourly rate, hire a financial planner, certified divorce financial analyst or accountant to help with this. They will do a better job and usually for less cost. Similarly, hire a parenting coach or counsellor to help with parenting issues instead of discussing them between two lawyers.
• Make calls directly. If you have hired an expert and you’re wondering about the status of their report, call the expert yourself instead of asking your lawyer to do it.
• Consider going paperless. Scanning and emailing documents can save printing and photocopy costs. Ask your lawyer to send you by email draft documents to review and send them back by email as well. Request lengthy reports be printed on two-sided pages. Many firms will email their statements of account as well and save costs that are passed on to the client.
• Saving the lawyer time saves the client money. Organize by date and label a stack of bank statements or receipts for children’s expenses before dropping them off to your lawyer. And put a summary of the expenses with the math totals on the documents. Always leave your phone number when leaving a message, and give your lawyer all of your contact numbers and an email address. Leave a retainer or a credit card on file so filing fees and disbursements can be paid quickly without a phone call.
• Work together. Former spouses may not be able to agree on much, but normally they can agree that they’d rather not spend any more money on their court case than necessary. Instead of each spouse hiring an expensive business valuator or land appraiser or psychologist, consider hiring one independent expert to do a joint report. Also, some basic co-operation can keep costs down. Have a four-way meeting instead of exchanging numerous lawyer letters. Provide financial information upon request instead of making the other party force the issue with a court order.
• Pick your battles. Taking an issue to court will be costly and sometimes clients lose perspective on whether the legal fees are worth getting the custom bed frame or an extra $50 per month in spousal support. The court system is imperfect and does not dispense the type of justice many hurt spouses are looking for. Before embarking on litigation over an issue, always ask about and seriously consider the cost. Even just exchanging bickering with a lawyer about relatively minor issues can add up and some matters just may not be worth it financially in the end.
<t$f$>» Jodi Wyman is a lawyer with Paterson, Patterson, Wyman and Abel, with offices in Brandon,
Neepawa and Virden.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 22, 2012