Lawyers generally charge by the hour, and a significant part of the work we do involves getting detailed information from our clients. It follows that a client who can quickly and efficiently convey information to a lawyer, will reduce the amount of work the lawyer needs to do. This can save the client a significant amount of fees. A well-prepared and diligent client can reduce his or her legal bills by up to 50%.
Phone calls and meetings
Before you telephone a lawyer, think about what you want to achieve by calling the lawyer. You are paying for a service and you want to get good value. Think through the issues you want to cover, and make a list of questions and write them down. Remember that you are calling a person who is trained to stick to the relevant issues. If you are making long, unplanned telephone calls to your lawyer, and repeating yourself, then you are wasting your own money. As a general comment, if you are trying to reduce your legal bills, plan your telephone calls carefully and don’t make unnecessary calls to your lawyer.
Take notes while speaking to your lawyer if you can, or, make a note of the telephone conversation as soon as you hang up. If the call was worth making (and worth paying for), then record the time and date of the conversation, and what was said. If you prepared for the call by making a list of questions, then when you hang up, write down the answers you were given.
The same principles apply to a meeting. Prepare for the meeting by considering what questions you want to ask the lawyer, and take the list of questions with you to the meeting. The lawyer will always want to see any relevant legal agreements or correspondence, so think carefully about what relevant documents you should bring to the meeting. Take a notepad to the meeting to make notes.
Emails and documents
Most legal matters involve emails and other documents – sometimes lots of them. As soon as you decide that it is necessary to see a lawyer, you should think carefully about what documents might be relevant, and collate and organise them. If you are in any doubt as to the best way to organise your documents, in most cases you should print all the documents, including emails, and put them in date order in a folder. Date order is almost always the best way to organise documents for a legal matter.
A mistake that some clients make is that when a lawyer asks him or her to send “all the relevant documents”, the client will go through their emails and just forward any email that looks relevant. The time taken by a lawyer to individually open each email, open the attachments, and then organise the emails, is cost that can be avoided by presenting the documents as suggested above.