We are very aware that it is important to our clients that their legal costs are kept as low as possible. Whilst we will do our best to keep your costs under control in the management and direction of your case, there are also things that you can do, as the client, to keep your matter running smoothly and manage the costs.
We recognise that often your first response to any development will be an emotional reaction – rather than a reasoned analysis – and we will help you try to put this in the wider context of your case. Having an immediate emotional reaction is entirely understandable when we are dealing with issues about your family. However, it is very easy to run up costs by having long telephone conversations or appointments with your lawyer or sending long emails where a focus is mainly on your emotional reactions rather than the legal issues. If you do need more help in coming to terms with your changing family situation please do not hesitate to ask us about this; we do have links with local support services, counsellors, and psychotherapist who may be able to better assist you.
In general, there is one golden rule: Think about what you want to say to your lawyer, and what you want them to do. There are a number of small things that you can do to work with your lawyer to keep your costs to a minimum:
- Where possible, write (or email) instead of calling. Letters in are charged at a lower rate than telephone calls. Sending a letter or email will also allow your lawyer time to get your file and prepare a response to your query, which will generally be more cost-effective than a long telephone call in which your lawyer goes through your file with you to find the answer to your question. For the same reason, avoid ‘dropping-in’ to see your lawyer without an appointment; if you can book an appointment first then your lawyer can prepare, which will end up being more effective for you and your lawyer both.
- Try to think about what you write and/or what you say in voicemail messages. If you can put all of your comments in one email say, rather than several in quick succession (a ‘stream of thought’ style), this will be easier for your lawyer to deal with and therefore cost less. If you are leaving a message, what do you want to say and what do you want your lawyer to do?
- If you are just providing information and you do not necessarily need your lawyer to do anything at that time, make this clear. It is appropriate (and helpful) to keep your lawyer updated as to how things progress in your family independently of the proceedings. However this can perhaps be done more efficiently by an email update headed FYI than by a long telephone call, which will cost more.
- If you need generic information about the process, try looking at the information sent to you at the beginning of your case or visiting our website. If you cannot find the answer there, try your lawyer’s assistant. The assistants are very knowledgeable and experienced, and whilst they cannot advise you they can help explain the proceedings or any documents you have received. The charge rate for an assistant is lower than that of your lawyer. The assistants also will be able to book an appointment for you to see or speak to your lawyer, and will be able to refer you to another member of the firm if your query is urgent and your lawyer is not available.
- When your lawyer asks you for something, you need to respond to them. If you will not be able to get the document or the answer to them for a short time do let them know when you expect to have it; this will save you money as your lawyer will not have to send letters to chase you up about what they have requested.
In financial cases, a significant amount of legal costs can be incurred in getting together financial disclosure for exchange with the other party. There are a few things to bear in mind that could help you manage this area of the case.
- Your lawyer will generally give you a list of the documents that they need. Work down the list and make sure that you have everything that has been requested. Usually (unless your lawyer specifies otherwise due to urgency of some kind) it will be more helpful to provide your lawyer with all of the documents at the same time.
- Respond promptly where possible. If there is even short-term delay the financial situation may change, and therefore your documents may need redrafting. This will incur further costs for you.
- Be entirely honest. Whilst this usually goes without saying, on some occasions, matters come to light later on in the case when they should have been flagged at the disclosure stage. Sometimes this can be inadvertent, so it is important to really think about the questions that your lawyer asks and to check things out if you are not sure (for example, call your bank to confirm if an old account really was closed, or a pension company to determine whether your benefits were transferred out of that scheme).
- The more running about you do, the less your lawyer will have to do and the cheaper it will be for you. If you make the chasing telephone calls and liaise with your accountant your lawyer will not have to. If you want your lawyer to do this then (with your authority) we can generally do so, but it will result in an increase in costs for you.
- Finally, be organised! If you can separate out your bank statements into each account and organise by date, put your wage slips in chronological order and organise your other financial documents into the order that your lawyer has requested, this will result in much less time being needed by your lawyer to consider these documents, which will end up being much more cost-effective for you.
We want to work with you to make sure that your costs are kept at a level that is manageable for you. If costs are not a high concern for you and you want your lawyer to do more of the legwork, then we are happy to do this for you (but there will be increased costs because of this). If, on the other hand, costs are a critical point for you, hopefully the tips above will help you and your lawyer manage this aspect of your case effectively. Please do not hesitate to talk to our solicitors in Exeter or Plymouth about costs and how you would like these to be managed; we would like there to be full discussion early on in the process so that there is transparency for you in relation to your costs throughout your matter.
Photo courtesy of Images Money, under Creative Commons