There are three ways to pay for attorney services: Contingency, flat rate and hourly rate. Contingency plans are based upon recovery. Specifically, the attorney gets paid a percentage of the recovery, if and only if there is a recovery. This payment plan is almost exclusively in personal injury cases (think car accident). The other type of payment plan is a flat rate. This is where the attorney charges you one lump sum payment, usually in the beginning, to complete all the work the case requires. Many times this can be unfair to either the client or the attorney as it is unknown in the beginning how the case will actually progress. For instance, if the attorney does very little work for the flat rate it is not fair to the client. However, if the attorney does a lot of work for a flat rate it is not fair to the attorney. The final payment arrangement is hourly rate. An hourly rate is when the attorney and paralegal bill for the time worked on the case. This blog will address the hourly rate scenario and give tips on how to keep your attorney bill down.
First, knowing the clock is ticking, collect your thoughts prior to communicating with the attorney and do not call or email multiple times in a day. Next, respond to your attorneys request in a timely manner and do not become unreachable. Forcing the law office to make multiple attempts to reach you will cost time and money. Review all correspondences from your attorney in their entirety and re-read it if you do not understand. Do all legwork/homework you are asked to complete. Also, ask the attorney’s office if there are some tasks you could do on your own to keep the fees down. Should you take this on, do not shirk your responsibility because it will take more attorney time and money to then have the attorney complete the task. Finally, and most importantly, identify and prioritize your goals without emotion. Understand what the court can and cannot give you as relief to your issues. Sometimes a goal is the best of only bad choices. Other times it just does not make economic sense to keep a case alive by paying the attorney. Listen to your counsel. Ask questions if you do not understand what your counsel is telling you. Be reasonable. You are ultimately the one in control of your case but a satisfactory result is contingent on keeping your attorney bill down.