Most attorneys and law firms still charge by the hour. Even though flat fees seem to be more common nowadays for certain routine agreements and matters, the meter usually starts running as soon as you start talking to your attorney. Here are a few tips on how to keep legal fees under control.
1. Manage your time with your attorney. Make a note of your questions and comments over a period of time and group them into one meeting, phone call or e-mail.
2. Ask who will be working on your matter other than the partner of the law firm. Insist on a small team.
3. Know the fees per hour for every member of your legal team. If the senior associate working on your matter is significantly cheaper than the partner (which usually is the case), trust his or her competence. Get to know him or her and deal directly with him or her. A lot of senior associates are smarter than the partner anyway. Insist that a partner’s time is limited to basic overview.
4. Ask how the firm handles recording of time spent on your matter. Is there sufficient supervision of associate’s time recording? Are associates accountable for their time on a daily basis? Does anybody check? At a minimum, demand to see a detailed billing statement with descriptions of the tasks performed by each attorney. Don’t be shy to question items on your bill if they seem excessive or unnecessary.
5. Get a written estimate of the fees likely to be incurred in your matter. Demand that you will be notified when fees are expected to go over the estimate.
6. Ask for itimized bills at least monthly, maybe with bi-monthly informal updates.
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