Not all people are knowledgeable about the laws and regulations enacted by the government. This is why there are many who still hire legal professionals to aid them in various matters and to make sure that they function legally and accordingly. Apparently, every call or question comes with a corresponding fee. If you’re not too careful, you might end up paying more than what the lawyer has rendered. In Consumer Law alone, a lawyer’s hourly rate is between $275 and $625, which means a lot of money is involved.
What can you do? You negotiate – and these tips could help:
- Set your budget.
This is the first thing you need to do when dealing with a lawyer. Legal consultations are often out of the budget, so make sure you set aside a specific amount for this while the case is still pending.
Go ahead and make the first move – in discussing fees, that is. Be honest about what you can afford so that your lawyer can also make adjustments on his proposal. Just remember to set a reasonable amount because lawyers also need to work for a living.
It would also help if you know the difference between hourly rate and flat rate since this information could come in handy and make it easier for you to negotiate.
2. Know your payment options.
There are three billing modes employed by lawyers:
- Contingency wherein the lawyer gets a percentage from the award of damages. This is more common on personal injury or civil cases.
- Hourly wherein you are charged by your attorney for every hour or portion of the hour that he or other members in the firm work on the case.
- Flat or fixed, which is more common for routine cases like preparation of will or criminal cases.
You could negotiate payment combinations to be able to save extra cash.
3. Discuss fees with the lawyer.
Don’t feel intimidated when asking a lawyer about fees and manner of billing. You want to learn more on types of assault, but fees must be included during your discussion. Ask about mode of payment, inclusions in the rate, basis for such fees, factors that could lower the fees, and even billing concerns. It’s okay to ask about how you can assist the lawyer to reduce overall costs.
Make sure to pay attention on the attitude and behavior of the lawyer during discussion. You want someone who is willing to help and not a counsel that will only help because you can afford to pay higher amount.
4. Go for 6-minute billing increments.
This is applicable if you went for hourly mode of payment. If you want to be able to save more, ask your lawyer if he could bill you in six-minute increments instead of the usual 15 minutes.
Why is that?
Quick phone calls or sending (and reviewing) of missed documents is cheaper, thereby allowing you to save more. For instance, a five-minute phone call will only cost you a tenth of the hourly rate if you are billed every six minutes compared to a quarter of the hourly rate if you went for 15 minute-increment.
5. Negotiate cost-cutting arrangement.
Your lawyer knows all the technicalities, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do anything to help him. When you help, you have the opportunity to lower the fees as well.
For instance, you can combine payment options on your divorce case. You can ask your lawyer to bill you at an hourly rate when handling the divorce case but when it comes to drafting documents, fixed rate will apply. You can also help in doing the work such as gathering and organizing relevant documents, and providing a written and organized set of facts including names of involved parties. This will save the lawyer and his staff a lot of time, which could lead to lower fees.
Aside from payment combinations, you can try negotiating an amount that will reflect the time and effort exerted by your lawyer in handling the case. Keep in mind that the operative term is “reasonable,” so make sure everyone is compensated properly.
6. Know the value of your case.
Do you want to know another secret on how to negotiate lawyer’s fees? Know the value of your case.
How does this work?
If your case is strong and most likely a winning one or results in a large settlement, then you may negotiate a certain percentage from the award of damages. You can also ask for waiver or at least lower other fees such as acceptance fee or appearance fee. Again, this is only applicable for “sure-win” cases. Know your case and the value surrounding it to make it easier for you to negotiate.
7. Put it in writing.
The billing agreement that is. All of the negotiation you did will be put into waste if you did not put the agreement into writing. Make sure there is a written contract bearing the billing arrangement and is signed by you and your lawyer. This way, no one can contest the arrangement since both parties agreed to it.
With these tips in mind, are you ready to negotiate with your lawyer?