Welcome to the second installment of our blog series on how to save money during your lawsuit. There are many ways the bill can escalate when involved in a lawsuit – many ways you can actually control. We at BMT Law Firm would like to help clear the confusion.
Your Attorney’s Assistant can be Your Best Friend
Utilizing the lawyer’s assistant, paralegal, or secretary when possible is a great way to save money on your lawsuit. He or she is there to assist the attorneys with their cases and the assistant typically logs his or her time at a much lower hourly rate.
Many do not realize that paralegals and assistants must track their time spent on each case in the same way as the attorney. As explained in the previous post, it is standard for attorneys to bill in six-minute increments, or 1/10th of an hour.
Example : If the attorney’s hourly rate is $200, the assistant’s rate may be $125. So a call lasting up to six minutes would only be $12.50 instead of $20, seven to thirteen minutes would be $25 versus $40, so on and so forth.
It is entirely up to your law firm’s policies, however many attorneys will not charge for a simple “call me back” message. It is advised that you leave a brief description for the reason you are calling, however.
Example : “Hello, this is John Doe and I am calling to tell my lawyer the answers to the discovery questions he requested.”
It is acceptable to give the information to the assistant, however, you will likely be required to repeat the information to your attorney and you will be billed for both conversations. To avoid this, provide adequate information to the paralegal so the attorney is prepared when they return your call. Bonus , providing this information can cut down on the call back time because your attorney will be prepared in the beginning of the call instead of having to use part of the call to get prepared.
Leaving cryptic messages or providing no details is NOT an effective way to get your attorney to call you back quicker. If he or she only has a few minutes between a meeting or trial, they are less likely to call you if they believe it may take more time to call you back than they have at the moment.
Is the reason for your call absolutely necessary for your attorney?
If you have a simple question such as when your court date has been set, or simply need to provide updated contact information, don’t insist on talking to your attorney if you wish to keep cost down. This is a perfect example of how the assistant can help you. He or she will be able to provide you with updates, trial dates, and booking an appointment. Not only will this keep costs down, but you will likely get a quicker response to your questions.
Depending on Firm Policy
Individual law firms have different policies. You may or may not be billed every time you communicate with the paralegal or assistant. However, if you speak with your attorney you are most likely being billed, and at a higher rate. Remember: direct and concise details about your case will keep the calls or email fees down.
Our team at BMT Law Partners understands how overwhelming and intimidating hiring an attorney, filing a lawsuit, or being sued can be. It can be emotional and terrifying when the costs begin to add up. We have created this blog series to help prepare you for the costs, as well as to lay out how to save your hard earned money.
Limit the number of calls you make to your attorney – It is an industry standard that attorneys bill in six-minute increments, or 1/10th of an hour. Even if calls are under six minutes, they will be billed at 1/10th of an hour.
- For example, if the
attorney charges $200/hour, a 1-6 minute call will be $20 and a 7-13 minute
call will cost $40.
- Getting to the
point of the phone call quickly will help keep cost down.
Don’t call your attorney daily – Unless there has been an important change in circumstance, ie: your job, address, or phone number changes, or crucial new evidence arises, your attorney does not need to hear from you every day. Absent any important updates, weekly to monthly updates will usually suffice depending on the nature of your case.
Create an outline – When you need to give your attorney an update, take a little time to write out required specifics and questions you need to ask. This will help you stay on topic instead of repeating yourself or getting distracted by unnecessary details.
Remain calm – If you are upset, take a moment to calm down before calling your attorney. Before calling, write down what happened that you need to discuss. When you are upset, you are more likely to repeat information multiple times or spend valuable time “venting” over the situation.
Keep a record of what you have discussed – Save your outlines and the notes you take from each conversation so there is minimal repeat discussions. This will keep you from being charged a second time for something you’ve already discussed with your attorney.
Get to the point – Most attorneys bill an average email at 1/10th of an hour, so just like a phone call, being well-spoken and concise will not only keep the billable time down, it will also help the turnaround time for a response from your lawyer.
Utilize the subject line – By providing a relevant subject title, your attorney or his or her paralegal will spend less time sorting through emails when they need to revisit a particular conversation.
Treat emails as you do phone calls – Provide all of the information needed in as few emails as possible. It is perfectly okay to respond with a brief message such as “I’ll get back to you when I have that information” to let your attorney know your received the email, however, you can be charged for individual emails that only provide partial information. Additionally, it makes it easier on your attorney to gather correspondence for discovery or a trial if your emails are thorough and detailed, and kept to a minimum.
Keeping track of what you have discussed – Emails are a great way to keep track of information you have already shared with your attorney, and they are easy for you to keep in your records.
Your attorney may or may not prefer text messaging as a form of communication during your lawsuit. If he or she does, similar rules to email communication apply to text messaging.
- Be clear and only
provide necessary information. Just like emails, many attorneys charge 1/10th
of an hour per text message.
- Do not use
shortened text lingo. Your attorney may not understand and he or she may have
to spend additional time translating.
Of course it is absolutely crucial to communicate with your attorney during the course of your lawsuit. We do not want to dissuade you from returning calls to your attorney’s office or providing updates when an important event that affects your case arises. However, following these tips will assist in keeping costs to a minimum throughout your lawsuit.
Be sure to read the next post in our series on Saving Money During a Lawsuit . “Like” our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter for updates on our latest blog posts!
If you need assistance or have questions now, please call our office to schedule a personalized consultation at (479) 250-0843 or (479) 787-7999.