By Charles Bowen
In today’s complex and litigious world, it is inevitable that you will one day find yourself in need of a lawyer. Whether you are a business owner, want to buy or sell a house, have rental properties, or even just need a will, you will almost certainly need the services of an attorney.
The drawback, of course, is that lawyers can be expensive. This is the reason that many people end up not hiring an attorney and instead trying to handle legal matters on their own. Unfortunately, that typically works out about as well as a seriously ill person skipping the doctor because they don’t want to incur medical bills. Here are some simple ways to help avoid costly legal fees.
I. Educate Yourself.
There is an incredible array of online resources available that will enable you to educate yourself on almost any legal issue. Every state and federal statute and most case law can be found on the internet, and many attorneys have blogs that give step-by-step instructions on handling common legal matters.
Even simply Googling your legal question can be extremely helpful. In addition, Google has scholar.google.com which is an excellent source of legal information. There are also numerous other sites that provide free legal resources, such as nolo.com, justia.com and findlaw.com.
I highly recommend that you read everything you can about your legal issue before meeting with an attorney. While you do not want to take this too far by handling complex legal matters on your own (just like reading WebMD does not make you a doctor), educating yourself will ensure that your attorney does not have to spend significant time bringing you up to speed on the basics.
II. Prepare Your Own Documents.
Many legal documents, such as articles of incorporation and simple sales contracts, are fairly straightforward. Even examples of more complex documents, such as operating agreements, can be easily found online. It can be very cost-effective to draft these documents yourself and simply have your attorney review them. This will save time on the creation of a new document.
There are also numerous online legal document preparation services such as legalzoom.com and rocketlawyer.com. The problem with these services is that these companies often supply cookie-cutter templates that do not account for your unique needs. However, it can be a good starting place provided you then allow your attorney to review and update your forms as needed.
III. Organize In Advance.
Before you meet with an attorney, print copies of all relevant documents and have them well-organized. If you have a dispute that occurred over time, draft a timeline of all relevant facts and events. This preparation will save time and significantly reduce your costs.
IV. Hire the Right Attorney.
It is vitally important that you hire an attorney that is interested in creating a long-term relationship with you and your business. Ask for recommendations and research the attorney online, and make certain they focus their practice in the area in which you require assistance. Meet with them in person to make certain they are friendly, attentive and are a good fit for you and your business.
If you provide a service that may be beneficial to your lawyer, you may also be able to save money by proposing a trade of services. It certainly cannot hurt to inquire, but be advised that smaller firms or solo practitioners are much more likely to be open to such an arrangement.
V. Consider Alternatives to Legal Action.
For smaller disputes, you may consider filing an action on your own in Magistrate Court. As long as the amount you are seeking does not exceed $15,000.00, Magistrate Court offers a very simple and quick alternative to hiring a lawyer. Nolo.com has a small claims court area on its website that contains helpful tips on handling such a case by yourself.
Another alternative is to suggest mediation. Mediation is an informal process in which the parties meet together with a neutral third party to try to reach an agreement to their dispute. Mediation can be a very cost-effective alternative to legal action, especially when the parties have an interest in staying on good terms.
By following these simple tips, you will find that procuring the services of an attorney will not be nearly as expensive as you may fear. The extra effort will be well worth it.
Charles Bowen is a business attorney who focuses on commercial, banking and manufacturing law and also offers comprehensive mediation services. He may be contacted at 912.544.2050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.