At your first meeting with your attorney you should discuss what types of things you might be able to do to reduce fees.
One of the places where my clients can help me most and reduce their fees is by being willing and able to gather necessary documentation, particularly with respect to financials.
If you’re willing to do the leg-work of collecting your pay stubs, bank statements, mortgage statement and deed to your home, etc., that will save me considerable time in obtaining those documents myself.
You should also discuss with your attorney if you want to be informed / consulted before he or she does substantive work. Most of the time, attorneys operate under the assumption that you’ve hired them to advance your case and the attorney can do whatever work he or she feels necessary.
However, when you get your bill at the end of the month, you may be shocked at what you owe because you didn’t realize everything your attorney was doing behind the scenes.
If you expect to be consulted before your attorney drafts a motion or sends a lengthy letter to opposing counsel, make sure you make that clear right away.
Tell your attorney that you would like to keep your case as cost-effective as possible. You can even ask if there are tasks you can complete yourself rather than having your attorney do them.
For example, you can complete your own Financial Disclosure Form instead of sending your attorney documents to put together or gather your own documents rather than having your attorney request or subpoena them.
Also, keep your communication with your attorney on point – many times clients vent and discuss things that aren’t legally relevant, which can quickly run up attorney fees.
Make sure you condense your communication with your attorney, such as sending one email with all your questions rather than multiple emails with a single question each.
Finally, prepare for each meeting or conversation with your attorney. It’s a good idea to create bullet points of what you want to discuss or accomplish to keep on task – that way you won’t have to call back later on with things you forgot to cover.
Find the property — Your attorney is not going to know anything about your property or your spouse’s property.
Provide your attorney with as much information and documentation as possible. If you do not know much about your spouse’s finances or are not sure about everything that is on the table, DO THE RESEARCH.
Any financial documents can be a clue to income or property. Look at bank statements, homeowner’s insurance policies, pay stubs, financial statements submitted for a mortgage or car loan, wills, trusts, credit card statements, tax returns, etc.
Hire the right people right away — While many litigants find themselves hesitant to start spending the extra money to hire a third party, it can actually keep costs low if done at the onset of a case.
If a business is at stake, hire a forensic accountant. The accountant will press for documents that show more fully where all the business assets are and how much cash is floating around.
If a pension is at stake, hire an expert to value the pension. If there is a lot of money at stake, get tax advice right from the start. You will want to know what any proposed settlement will be worth after-tax.
As every case is different, ask your attorney how you can make the process for your individual case more efficient. The answer will vary depending on the particular factors in the case.
Generally, all clients should provide their attorney with the information or documentation he or she requests in a timely fashion, whether that be factual information needed for a pleading or financial disclosures.
Read substantive emails and other correspondence from your attorney carefully before you ask questions. If you do have questions, I recommend putting those in writing, as emails are typically quicker to respond to than holding a telephone call.
As a general matter, guys need to select counsel who will apprise them of their options throughout the divorce process while weighing the pros and cons of each option and conducting a cost-benefit / risk analysis.
Obviously, certain cost-generating events are inevitable and unavoidable, but with each issue in a case, there is the option to settle or to litigate the issue.
Knowing the risks and being able to conduct a cost-benefit analysis is key to keeping attorney’s fees as reasonable as possible while deciding how to proceed in a divorce.
Cooperation with the process is key as well. Any actions which may be perceived as a delay tactic, an unnecessary fishing expedition or a failure to comply with court orders or discovery requests can be sanctionable and can mean an award of counsel fees to the other party.
There is also a lot of legwork that guys can do to prepare their case for equitable distribution to save on attorney fees.
Collecting the documentation to substantiate the marital estate is a crucial step in every divorce and clients are often busy with their hectic lives and put this daunting task on the back-burner.
While a client can sign authorizations for his attorney to obtain this information and documentation on his behalf, a client can save a significant amount in attorney fees if he collects all the data needed to fully assess the marital estate.
The divorce process has various phases from the time a divorce complaint is filed to when the judgment for divorce is granted.
The discovery phase of litigation is the information-gathering stage after the initial pleadings have been filed, and it offers several opportunities for a client to reduce their attorney fees.
A good example is when responding to a Request for Production of Documents. This discovery tool is when one party requests the other to produce specific documents and typically requires production of numerous documents for each request, resulting in a high volume of paperwork.
Clients will often gather the requested documents and submit them to their attorney to organize. Although it might be easier to just hand things over to your attorney, it helps minimize the time I have to spend sorting for them when my clients are organized.
The best advice I can give to the client who wants to minimize his attorney’s fees – be organized. Not only will it reduce your attorney fees, it will assist you and your attorney in your case preparation and serve you both during the entire divorce process.
There are a number of ways that you can minimize your attorney fees during the divorce process.
Prior to contacting your attorney, you can prepare a list of questions or concerns that you have so that you can ask them all in a concise manner.
You can also gather and obtain requested documents from sources directly, such as bank statements, credit card statements, etc. Providing your attorney with organized and complete documents can significantly reduce the time it takes for them to review the documents.