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How to avoid being taken for a ride: Keep your legal cost down

No one likes to be taken for a ride. And unfortunately, many of us don’t realize it until the ride is over. So hopefully you get a chance to read this article before commencing any legal work so that you know how to navigate your discussions with your future lawyer.

  1. Take notes in your initial meeting– For most people, having a meeting with a lawyer is not a daily occurrence (thankfully). This experience can sometimes be daunting leaving people anxious and slightly intimidated. As you’re sitting across the table from your lawyer who at this point should be dazzling you with their legal expertise, don’t be afraid to write down what they’re saying, but more importantly, questions to ask when your lawyer finally comes up for air!
  2. Ask and clarify– Don’t be afraid to ask whether the fee provided to you is an estimate or a quote? Does it include disbursements or are they separate? Does the lawyer anticipate that your matter can be broken up into stages or is it fairly straightforward? Is it a fixed-fee matter or will you be charged by the hour? With the exception of litigation (going to court – and even then its possible to provide an accurate fee range), your lawyer should be able to clearly tell you the cost range of your matter and reasons why the cost may exceed their estimates or quote.
  3. Read before you sign– This goes without saying, but most people don’t realize that many documents that you sign will usually supersede any representations that were made verbally to you previously. Sounds dodgy? Definitely. Hence, be sure to read the small print on the client agreement and cost disclosure provided to you from your lawyer. If something doesn’t look right, raise it with your lawyer and request that it be re-written clearer as to avoid any ambiguity. This could save you from a costly battle with you lawyer after your case is finalized.

Going to a lawyer should not be a stressful life event while we sadly acknowledge that most people do feel that way. Other noteworthy questions that you should probably ask your lawyer is whether you will be charged for calling up to speak with your lawyer about a query, or if you send through an email query. Depending on the firm, you may be charged for services which you may have thought were already included in the price.


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