How to Save Money on your Legal Fees and Costs
Want to save money on attorney's fees and costs?
1) Hire an attorney – When you represent yourself, you increase the odds of screwing up your case exponentially. You will then have to hire an attorney to fix it. This will cost you more than hiring an attorney at the outset and getting your paper work done and filed right the first time.
2) Read the attorney's retainer agreement very carefully. Note what you are being told in advance what the attorney will be billing you for, in what time increments and at what hourly rate. Then, keep that in mind every time you decide to call or email your lawyer. If you don't understand your attorney's billing practices or don't understand or agree with something in her retainer agreement – ASK QUESTIONS before you sign.
3) Pick your battles. Consider what is worth fighting for. Don't spend a lot of your attorney's time talking about, drafting letters, or going to court on matters that are not worth the money or hassle. This includes fighting over property that isn't worth what your lawyer will bill for the time it takes to fight over that property.
4) Do the leg work for your attorney. She needs years-worth of bank statements, of tax returns, of credit card statements? Get them and photocopy them for her. Get acquainted with file sharing apps such as Drop Box. At the outset of your case, ask your lawyer what she will need moving forward, then go ahead and get it even if it is not needed right away.
5) Your lawyer is not your therapist. Don't spend a lot of time, or frankly any time, talking your lawyer's ear off about emotional aspects of your divorce. Remember, California is a no-fault state. Long stories, or back stories do nothing for you or your divorce case and your lawyer is billing you for every minute you relay this information to him or her. Information related to domestic violence absolutely needs to be relayed to your lawyer. I'm not talking about that here. Also, the financial history of your relationship is also important. Again, that's not what I'm talking about. Dwelling on the emotions and feelings that led to your desire to divorce in the first place, such as infidelity, or why your spouse is a jerk (or worse) is something to talk about with your friends or a therapist; not your lawyer.
6) Get up to speed with current technology. Be able to fax or scan documents. NOT PHOTOGRAPHING. Documents you send to your lawyer may ultimately be used as exhibits in court documents. Either invest in a good scanner/fax machine and learn how to create PDFs or find out where your nearest FedEx Office store is or Staples. If you can't embrace the technology, then photocopy documents yourself and drop them off at your lawyer's office. Your lawyer likely charges by the page for photocopying documents. The per page cost charged by your lawyer will no doubt be higher than the per page fee charged by Staples. Don't rely on your cell phone for these tasks. The images taken with the cell phone camera or using a scanning/pdf app on your phone will create a document that is illegible when sent to your attorney and will not or cannot be used as an exhibit.
7) The more contentious your relationship with your spouse or partner, the more your divorce will cost. The back and forth haggling or sniping takes time, especially if you want your lawyer to relay these issues to the other party or his/her attorney. Let your lawyer do her job and assist you with negotiating a settlement as soon as practical.