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Stretching Legal Dollars

Since the downturn of the economy, Americans are scrutinizing where and how to spend their money. The care with which people analyze their spending extends to the legal industry, with consumers taking a hard look at what they really need and how they can get the most value for the fewest dollars.

Costs built into many legal services can surprise a client who is not paying careful attention to what he or she is paying for. Therefore, it is wise to know some strategies for stretching legal dollars.

Negotiate Fees

Before starting work with an attorney, it is critical to carefully and clearly negotiate exactly what is being paid for and how much it will cost in total. During initial conversations with potential attorneys, one of the most important things to establish is what type of payment the firm expects in exchange for the work performed. Some attorneys work on a flat fee or finite rate, while others are more willing to negotiate an hourly rate. There are even instances in which a contingency fee is appropriate.

However the attorney bills, it is important to have a clear understanding of exactly what payments are expected prior to engaging legal services. Be sure to negotiate and weigh in on which issues take priority in the case, then seek out an attorney who is willing to negotiate his or her fee. Some lawyers simply do not negotiate; in that case, the decision is whether to engage the first choice of attorneys or find a way to stretch those dollars. The choice is always the paying client’s.

Find The Right Attorney

With many different practice areas, firms and practitioners out there, it can be difficult to know which attorney to choose. If stretching the legal dollar is very important, then spend time doing research to find the right attorney for the situation. Shop around and do not be afraid to make some calls or schedule consultations with potential attorneys.

Consider seeking references or recommendations from other people. Hearing about personal experiences and interactions from trusted colleagues can make a big difference in hiring one attorney over another. Because clients share important and often private details of business or life with the attorney, he or she should be someone they get along with and trust.

Do Not Write Off General Practitioners Too Quickly     

Although it is recommended to find an attorney that meets a company’s or individual’s specific needs, there’s no need to completely ignore general practitioners. They have a broad knowledge of the law and understand a variety of legal principles that are applicable in many different areas. If a variety of legal issues need to be addressed, finding a general practitioner who can accommodate budget constraints will be a great option to pursue, as he or she will be able to address most, if not all, of the client’s issues. This will keep clients from having to pay different attorneys and firms, and cuts down on the time spent addressing and fixing the legal issues that led them to look for representation in the first place.

Often, a small boutique law firm can meet a client’s needs just as well as a larger firm.

Use the Attorney in a Preventative Context

“One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This phrase holds true in many situations where an attorney is needed because something has gone wrong. It will save money, time and a lot of headaches if a client consults with the attorney prior to entering into agreements, signing contracts or doing anything that will require an attorney’s help in sorting out a mess later. Although it may cost a small fee to have a legal professional review a contract or provide advice on a deal, doing so could prevent paying court costs and attorney fees in a resulting lawsuit that goes to trial.

Attorneys can and should be great allies in business decisions. When attorneys are allowed to assist in small ways before problems ever arise, the likelihood of facing a major legal issue is very slim. Without an attorney on board, those small issues rapidly become big problems if not handled by the proper person and in the proper manner.

Take Advantage of Legal Resources

The business model across the legal industry includes requiring payment for meetings, discussions and consultations between attorneys and their clients. For someone who is looking to stretch their dollar and may not be certain what type of lawyer is needed, these meetings can get expensive quickly. Although many people are intimidated by the legal industry because it can be very unfamiliar, there are a number of free resources that can help narrow down the search for the right lawyer to handle a case.

Before rushing to the nearest law office to ask for help or guidance, consider consulting free or very inexpensive newsletters and legal updates that are widely available. Many firms offer these types of publications on their websites, and they are filled with practice area information and updates to laws and legal practices. They provide an overview of what that firm can do. All reputable firms’ websites explain the areas in which they practice, which can help determine if that particular firm is the best choice.

In addition to newsletters and industry updates, free seminars often are offered by and for legal professionals and others looking to learn more about a particular area of specialization. By staying abreast of legal changes through these types of seminars, as well as through doing some research prior to meeting with an attorney, a client can better manage costs and get the legal assistance needed without spending too much money.

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