However, you can help your lawyer reduce your bill. This series of posts will outline tips and strategy that you can use to minimize your legal fees and maximize the value of the legal services provided to you.
I write this series of blog posts with one caveat: the majority of family lawyers operate strictly on an hourly basis, and these posts are limited to arrangements where an hourly rate is applied. If you have a contingent retainer with your lawyer (that is, your lawyer gets paid a percentage of what you win in Court) then these tips will be helpful, but obviously will not affect your bottom line one whit.
So, without further ado, here is the first in a series of tips to help you reduce your legal bills.
1) Be unwavering, without being stubborn.
Decide early on what you want, and then pursue those goals. If you change your mind frequently and 'flip-flop' as to what you want over the course of litigation, that takes up a lot of extra time. Time for your lawyer to listen to the changes to his or her instructions, time to change or withdraw court documents, and time communicating with your spouse and/or his or her lawyer.
Sticking to your goals also bears fruit during the negotiation and mediation process. Generally, a litigant with a consistent, clear set of goals and demands will fare better at the negotiation table for the simple reason that they project confidence in the strength and legitimacy of their position.
Being unwavering might mean you need to take plenty of time at the outset of the case to decide what you want, or it might simply mean sticking to your values despite the doubts that may crop up during the proceedings. What you want, and how to get it, is an important discussion you need to have with your lawyer as early as possible. Ask lots of questions - that's what your lawyer is there for.
This advice is often hard to follow. Family proceedings are emotional, turbulent affairs. It's very difficult not to let your emotions interfere with your judgment, and often there are significant time pressures - looming deadlines and emergencies crop up frequently and unexpectedly. It is entirely normal to feel stress and some doubt under these kinds of pressures. If you feel this way, talk to your lawyer about your doubts. A big part of the lawyer's value to you is objectivity. As someone with no personal stake in the litigation, your lawyer can provide you with a fresh, rational perspective and unbiased advice on what to do and whether a change of strategy is warranted.
Being unwavering doesn't mean being stubborn, particularly where you are faced with a settlement offer from your former partner. Carefully consider any offers you receive, and be flexible enough to recognize when your goals can be met by means you had not initially considered. Be open to compromise. Keep in mind that you might face negative consequences if you unreasonably turn down a settlement offer - the most obvious of which are the additional legal fees you’ll incur by dragging out the process for what might be little or no gain. Additionally, under certain circumstances you may also have to pay a hefty portion of your former partner’s legal fees if you turn down a settlement offer and end up receiving less at trial than what was offered.