If you’re facing charges for criminal activity or if you just need a legal consultation, you might be in for an expensive journey. Lawyers are very skilled professionals who do hard work, so they justifiably charge a lot for their services.
They can provide you with legal advice, connect you with resources, and even argue your case in court – if you can afford their rates.
But is there any way to save money on these services?
The Importance of Quality
Immediately, you’ll notice that some lawyers charge more money than others. As a general rule, you get what you pay for. More experienced, more successful lawyers justifiably charge more for their services.
Accordingly, it’s not always in your best interest to look for the cheapest or most affordable lawyer in your area. Even if you’re on a strict budget, it may be a good idea to expand the range of options you’re willing to consider so that you can get the quality services you need.
This is especially important for high profile matters, such as mounting a criminal defense.
How to Save Money on Legal Costs
So what steps can you take to save money on legal costs without compromising on quality?
- Shop around. You shouldn’t always go with the first lawyer you find. Instead, it’s a good idea to shop around. Talk to a few different lawyers with similar specialties in your area and see what their rates are. You might find that two different lawyers with very similar levels of experience and almost identical services charge very different rates. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that you should be comparing apples to apples; some law firms charge less because they don’t have as much esteem or as many resources to help you with.
- Understand rates and fees in advance. When you do decide on a lawyer, make sure you understand all the rates and fees in advance. Are you responsible for paying a retainer? Are you going to owe fees for different individual services? How and when are you going to be billed? You don’t want any nasty surprises compromising your budget.
- Consider negotiating. Many law firms are firm with the rates they charge, but you may still find some wiggle room if you’re willing to negotiate. If you don’t have much of a budget, you may be able to ask for somewhat lower fees. If there’s no wiggle room there, you can ask for more time to pay bills once they come due. Sometimes, just asking for a break can instantly reduce your financial burden.
- Ask for details on your bills. Ask for details on your bills when you start receiving them. Instead of receiving an invoice or a bill for a flat amount, you should see a detailed breakdown of the individual line items responsible for that final cost. This way, you’ll have more transparency into the process, so you can see exactly where your money is going. You’ll also be able to spot red flags if your lawyer is charging you for certain things unnecessarily.
- Ask for notifications before major work begins. Set expectations in advance that you should be receiving proactive notifications before any major work begins. You don’t want to be blindsided with a hefty fee for something that you feel is unnecessary for your case. Obviously, your lawyer is more knowledgeable and experienced than you in the legal realm, so you should take their advice and direction seriously; but you should also be informed throughout the process so you don’t get hit with a massive fee unexpectedly.
- Keep accurate time records. In many legal arrangements, you’ll be responsible for paying an hourly rate. Accordingly, you should keep accurate time records so you can verify that your charges are all accurate. If you notice any discrepancies, flag them.
- Do some work yourself (when possible). In some arrangements, it may be possible to save money by doing some work yourself, such as filling out certain forms, making photocopies, or mailing things.
- Minimize use of expensive services. Some services, like overnight delivery, are exceptionally expensive and should be used only if necessary.
- Be judicious when using your lawyer’s time. Finally, be wary of how you spend your time with your lawyer. Each minute is costing you – so don’t waste time with unnecessary banter.
Legal services are rarely, if ever, cheap. And if they are, they probably aren’t worth using. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on services that should only cost hundreds or thousands. With these strategies, you should be in a much better position to get the legal support you need for a reasonable cost.