Keeping your Family Law legal costs down
Firstly, choose a cost effective lawyer!
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to put some thought into the lawyer you choose for your case. Not every lawyer is the same and many lawyers charge different hourly rates for their services – some much higher than others. Shop around and choose a lawyer you’re comfortable with, but who also charges a competitive hourly rate – this will go a long way to keeping your family law legal costs down. Simply choosing a low cost lawyer based on their hourly rate is not necessarily going to result in low legal costs to you.
It’s not just the hourly rate which is important, it’s also about how long the lawyer is going to take to do the work for you.
- Get an estimate of your expected legal costs in advance, in writing and prior to actually engaging your lawyer.
- Read your terms of services document (sometimes called retainer or engagement letter). This sets out the basis on which a lawyer charges for their time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about legal costs. It is important that you know how you’re being charged and the circumstances in which your fees may exceed the estimate you have been given. If your lawyer won’t freely discuss their fees and how they charge then you should go to another lawyer. Every lawyer should be up front about their costs!
At Northside Lawyers we are primarily focused upon being affordable.
Why? Because we know that if a lawyer isn’t affordable then you aren’t able to properly fight for your rights.
- We will provide you, based on past experience, an estimated range of the legal costs in the ordinary type of case.
- We will confirm this fee estimate to you in writing. In most cases, our actual fees are in line with our estimate.
- Sometimes circumstances can change during a legal matter and if that happens, we will notify you in advance of extra fees before they are incurred.
You can therefore have reasonable confidence how much a course of action is likely to cost prior to instructing Northside Lawyers to undertake that work for you.
Provide all relevant documents you may have
If you have documents relevant to your case, get them together and provide them to your lawyer. If your lawyer asks for documents, don’t make them chase you up . Ask them for a list in writing of exactly what they require, then undertake the leg work yourself. Each time they need to follow up with you increases your costs.
It is usual procedure in family law property settlements to provide the following financial documents:
- Tax returns for the past 3 years;
- Bank account statements for the past 12 months either in your sole name, joint names or with someone else (who isn’t your spouse);
- An up to date superannuation statement for all accounts that you have; and
- A market appraisal for any real estate you own, either jointly or solely – most real estate agents can provide you with a written appraisal at no cost.
If you’re going through a marriage or de facto property settlement start collecting these documents now before you’re asked by your lawyer. And most importantly, organise them – in date order. It’s not a fun job and it takes time to do, but remember, if you don’t do it then your lawyers office will have to and you will be charged for that work. If there are many pages of documents, prepare an index. This will make your lawyer’s job much easier and also allow them to keep your legal fees down.
Use email instead of calling where possible
Of course you should call your lawyer if you have something urgent to discuss and some people have urgent cases which require a lot of attention. But, if you don’t have urgent circumstances, you can save some legal costs by thinking about how you ask for advice. Most lawyers charge for the time they take helping you with your case. That means if you are calling them twice a day to talk about your case, you’re going to pay for the time you spend talking to them. Instead, make a list of things you need to talk to your lawyer about, and then make one phone call instead of four.
Or even better, put your questions in an email to your lawyer who can then provide you a response. Emails are almost always cheaper for you than phone calls. The trade-off is you won’t be receiving an “instant answer” if you send an email like you would with a phone call. An email response could take between 2-24 hours depending on how busy your lawyer is.
Bottom line – the more leg work you do, the less your lawyer needs to do and charge you for and the more efficient you are with communications with your lawyer will also keep your costs down.
Be prepared to tell your lawyer the whole story from the beginning
Be prepared to tell your lawyer the full story if you are able, right from the beginning. If you can put the whole story down in writing for your lawyer to read – even better!
Everything you tell your lawyer is protected by solicitor client privilege which means it is confidential. Lawyers are not under an obligation to report you for any criminal activity you disclose, or to notify your ex about something you may or may not have done.
Your lawyer provides you with advice and recommendations about your particular legal issue based on your instructions. That means if you don’t tell the whole story to your lawyer their advice in based only what you have told them. It could be the case that if your lawyer knew the whole story their advice to you might be have been different.
That is why it’s really important to tell your lawyer everything you know about your issue/case to help them help you.
Why should you choose Northside Lawyers?
We fight hard for your rights to ensure that you get the outcome you are rightly entitled to. We don’t use fancy Latin words or “legalese” when dealing with you. We want to empower you to make an informed decision about how to deal with your legal issue in a way that is best for you. Once you decide on a course of action we will fearlessly follow your direction.
We will gladly discuss all aspects of how we charge and provide you a cost estimate in writing prior to you engaging us to act for you. We don’t shy away from discussing our fees – we welcome it. We want you to be informed and know what you’re spending your money on.
Call us today to schedule your free first interview