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Eight ways to save on legal fees

Your time and money count.

Preparing for your (first) meeting with a lawyer can facilitate a quicker resolution to your legal matter and it can have a significant impact on overall legal fees.

Here are a few pointers that will help make your time with a lawyer count:

1. Make arrangements to retain your lawyer well in advance of any important deadlines or court appearances.

2. Be clear on what you are asking the lawyer to do and make sure the scope of the work is reflected in the retainer letter the lawyer asks you to sign.

3. Have government issued identification with you at your first appointment. It is standard practice for lawyers to collect identification; it is a requirement by their professional regulating body (in Ontario, at least).

4. If a lawyer gives you a questionnaire to complete before your meeting, fill it out to the best of your knowledge and/or ability.

5. Make a copy of relevant documents to give to your lawyer at the meeting or send the documents ahead of your appointment.

6. Before the meeting, write down your questions for the lawyer.

7. Check your expectations. What you may think is one issue may actually be several issues and it may take more time than you think to unravel the implications and to suggest a course of action (check tip 1, above). Conversely, the legal issue you are asking about may be one which has been settled in legislation or case law and there is not much ambiguity about it. A good lawyer will tell you which road you are heading but be open (especially in litigation) to some uncertainty. Also, be ready for disbursements (expenses like court costs, for example) to be billed separately and added to your bill.

8. Ask your lawyer for a fee breakdown.

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