How to Maximize Your Legal Retainer
If it’s your first time working with an attorney on an hourly basis, it can take some getting used to the way legal services are billed. Remember: you are paying for your legal team’s time and knowledge. The time your legal team spends on emails, telephone calls, and legal research can quickly deplete your legal retainer. Here are four tips to help you maximize your legal retainer.
#1: Utilize your paralegal wherever possible.
As you saw on your fee agreement, every member of your legal team is billed at an hourly rate. Attorneys are the most expensive members of your legal team to use, costing several hundred dollars per hour.
There are certain tasks that an attorney must do; for example, appearing in court on your behalf. There are many other tasks, however, which can easily be done by a paralegal. Our paralegals are intimately acquainted with the details of the matters to which they’re assigned. The cost to have a paralegal work on your case is a fraction of the cost of an attorney.
Try to utilize our paralegals for communication as often as possible to maximize your legal retainer. Your attorney will oversee your matter and check in from time to time, but much of the day-to-day correspondence can be handled by one of our paralegals.
#2: Designate one main point of contact.
In some cases, there are multiple individuals involved in a matter– for example, three co-trustees, or a beneficiary and their spouse. Usually, the best plan is to designate one main point of contact who can communicate information to any other parties involved. This saves legal fees since the attorney will only need to write one letter or make one call instead of performing every action multiple times (and charging for each one).
#3: Stick to one form of communication at a time.
Another point to consider is the method of communication. When clients feel anxious, they may feel inclined to call their attorney, and if they don’t hear back immediately, also email or text until they get a response. Remember – you are paying for time! You will likely be charged multiple times if you keep contacting your legal team in multiple different formats.
To reduce attorney fees, stick to one form of communication at a time. Keep your questions and messages direct and to the point. Our brand promise is to return client messages within 24 hours. If we are falling short of that standard, please contact our Director of Client Experience, Stacy Grow.
#4: Send requested items to your legal team- the first time.
In contested trust and estate legal matters, you will often need to provide your legal team with supporting documents such as estate planning documents, receipts for expenses, and correspondence with opposing parties and/or their legal counsel.
When your legal team requests this information, be sure to deliver it promptly and include everything they requested. This will save you money because you won’t be charged for the follow-up reminders from the staff. Complying with such requests in a timely fashion helps you maximize your legal retainer.
#5: If possible, consider settling outside of court.
The fact is, a court trial is the most expensive route you can take in a contested matter. Many clients opt to try mediation before going to trial. There are times when a trial is appropriate. But if a settlement can be reached in mediation or any time prior to a court trial, this will save money for all parties involved.
If you have any questions about maximizing your legal retainer, feel free to contact our law firm.
Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt
The Law Offices of Daniel A. Hunt is a California law firm specializing in Estate Planning; Trust Administration & Litigation; Probate; and Conservatorships. We've helped over 10,000 clients find peace of mind. We serve clients throughout the greater Sacramento region and the state of California.