Essentially, the best way to save on your legal expenses is to be a good client. While this is not intended to be a comprehensive list, and is not arranged in any particular order as to priority, a good client should;
- Follow "The Plan". If you and your attorney have agreed on a course of action, plan, or theory of the case, do not change direction, take any unilateral action, or simply fail to follow through without first discussing your change of heart with your attorney. Be a team player.
- Read what is sent to you in the mail, and respond. This office routinely passes along copies of all documentation which is generated on the client’s case. Typically, we will not write you a separate letter on what opposing counsel has sent to us. Rather, we expect you to read what the opposing attorney has sent and to get back to our office with any requests for information, replies to settlement proposals, etc. Don’t make your lawyer track you down to follow up on these sorts of things. Take responsibility.
- Deal with the office staff whenever possible. A law firm may bill for a paralegal assistant’s time, but you will not be billed the same hourly rate charged by your attorney. Paralegal assistants have special training and, in many cases, a great deal of experience, and will often be able to help you without the lawyer getting involved. Of course, if you really need to speak with your attorney and he or she is not available, you should always leave a message. This office returns all of its calls as soon as possible, but it is helpful to know in advance why you called.
- Insist on monthly, itemized bills. Review your bills when they come in and, if possible, pay them on time. If you are confused about a billing item or disagree with a particular bill, bring it to your attorney’s attention promptly. The same rule applies if you are unable to pay your bill-don’t ignore the situation-call the office and explain. In many states (and in Maine) you may compel your attorney to participate in fee arbitration when there is a dispute about what is owed.
- Do not simply show up at your lawyer’s office, expecting to see your lawyer, review your paperwork, or even pay your bill. Law offices are busy places, and they need to schedule client appointments to avoid haste on the part of the office staff, as well as delay and frustration for the client or visitor who "dropped in". Likewise, if you have made an appointment which you can no longer keep, you should let your attorney’s office know as soon as possible.
- If you are unhappy with the way your case is progressing, let your attorney know. Your lawyer has probably been involved with cases like yours on many occasions, and may no longer fully appreciate how frustrated and powerless the first-timer might feel. Sometimes it is helpful to get a second opinion from another attorney (many attorneys will grant an initial review at no charge), but it is always best to go straight to the horse’s mouth. By the same token, if you feel good about your case, let your lawyer know. Lawyers are people too.