How To Save On Legal Fees Without Compromising On Quality

Everyone would like to cut expenses, but for many couples going through a divorce, they just keep piling up, especially legal fees. Surprisingly, the experienced attorney with the higher hourly rate may not be the most expensive. When you hire an experienced divorce attorney, he or she will be able to identify the critical issues in your case, set reasonable expectations for the eventual outcome, have the skills to represent you in court, and be able to guide you on where to invest your legal dollars. He or she will have a large database of documents drafted in similar cases to draw upon and customize to fit your needs, saving you time and money. These advantages will likely to save you money over a less experienced attorney.

So where can you find some savings without sacrificing quality?

Since a client is billed based on the time a lawyer spends on their case, anything the client does to cut down on that time will save money. With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how you can reduce lawyer time spent on your case and save on your legal fees:

1. Most people hiring a divorce attorney will be asked to provide their lawyer with copies of their complete financial history, sometimes going back several years. This typically includes copies of all bank records, tax returns, brokerage records, deeds, titles, etc. This can be a very large task, but it is a great way for clients to cut costs by doing the organizing work themselves.

For instance, Client #1, who comes in with a grocery bag full of unsorted papers in response to this request. That client will be paying for the time it takes for an associate or paralegal to sort through and organize those documents, and then have them copied or scanned. If pages are missing, Client #1 may have to pay for the firm to get copies directly from banks and other institutions to fill in missing information. This exercise will take hours of legal work and cost hundreds of poorly spent dollars for Client #1.

Now compare Client #1 to Client #2, who carefully assembles her documents and has them scanned onto a storage device or provides us with neatly indexed and organized binders containing all of the documents requested in chronological order, including both a copy for our firm and one for the opposing counsel. This makes it easy for the lawyer to look over the documents, identify any issues, and then serve the documents on the other attorney. Most importantly, this saves hours of legal work for the attorney and staff. Client #2’s efforts can save her hundreds of dollars, and she earns the gratitude of her lawyer and her staff as a bonus!

2. I long ago lost count of the number of times a client has told me that their future ex-spouse has refused to discuss and issue and told them to have her lawyer take it up with his lawyer. That should never be the approach for dealing with day-to-day issues, which ideally should not involve the lawyers. It is almost always a waste of your money to have your attorney take the time to address minor matters that have no enduring benefit to you or your case. Since saving money is likely a common goal you share with your future ex-spouse, I encourage my clients to try to find a method to handle these issues outside of involving the attorney.

What if your ex will not cooperate? Try to stay focused on the benefits and the costs when deciding whether to ask your lawyer to intervene. For instance, if the issue involves a needed repair in the home, and the cost is $300, should you involve your lawyer, who will involve your spouse’s lawyer, at a likely combined expense that is greater then the cost of the needed repair? Some clients will want to do just that, perhaps in the hope that doing it once will encourage the intransigent spouse to cooperate next time, while others will prefer to make the repair and ask for a credit or offset later. Do what is best for you, but don’t lose sight of the costs and ultimate benefit. The fact is it is never wise to spend hundreds of dollars on an issue with little end reward. Spend your money where it counts.

3. Meeting deadlines is another area where money can be saved. Each missed deadline will have a consequence, from minor to major, and a corresponding expense. While missing some deadlines may be unavoidable, others can be avoided, as can the corresponding expense.

Make no mistake that the client who routinely needs reminders of deadlines, or who needs to be prodded to bring in requested documents, will pay more in legal fees. These delays may require the attorney to take the time to call the client, send out reminder letters, and arrange for extensions of time with the court or opposing counsel. The expenses may be more significant where the client’s failure to meet deadlines despite repeated warnings from the court and lawyers, leading to costly court motions with significant legal consequences.

These legal fees can be saved just by meeting deadlines. As a bonus, your attorney will appreciate having a cooperative client who is on top of their case.

4. During your divorce you may have complaints about the behavior of your future ex, his lawyer, the courts, and the system. Your complaints may be valid, but they will have no legal or practical solution short of bringing your case to its conclusion and getting you divorced. Avoid calling your lawyer when these issues come up unless you want to pay for her to just listen to the complaint. Call someone who will not charge you for the time it takes to hear your complaint!

There are undoubtedly many ways to save money on legal fees that are not included here. As a rule, anything you can do to minimize the time spent on your case by your lawyer will save you money. Your lawyer should be able to identify areas where you can save without sacrificing the quality of services provided. If he or she does have other suggestions on how you can save money, please post them here as a comment and share them with our readers. The advice will be much appreciated!

How to Legally Write Debt Off

Rumours have been circulating in the press about whether you can actually write debt off legally. You may have heard radio advertisements from companies offering a ‘debt write off’ service and wondering “Is this true? And if so, how can it be done?” To set the record straight it is possible and yes it can be done through a process called an ‘Unenforceable Credit Agreement’.

What is an Unenforceable Credit Agreement?

A UCA is a method of proving that your loan or credit card agreement is invalid. A credit agreement must correctly drafted by the lenders in order to make it legal in a court of law. If a credit agreement is missing specific ‘prescribed terms’ then the contract is effectively invalid making it ‘unenforceable’ and preventing the lender chasing you for further repayments. This usually results in the debt being written off by the lender as they are not legally obliged to collect it.

Is this a scam or a debt loophole?

It seems too good to be true doesn’t it? Questions have been raised as to whether this is a scam or a loophole to get out of debt but the fact of the matter is… this is the law itself! But you are probably thinking “well how could this be? Surely banks or the Government wouldn’t allow this to happen?” To explain a little bit more, all lending under the value of £25,000 is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. In 2006 specific sections in the Act which protect consumers from incorrectly drafted documentation were removed, opening the floodgates for millions of credit agreements to be challenged for enforceability.

The Act was re-amended on 6th April 2007 but with so many credit agreements now in circulation it means that if you have a loan or credit agreement taken out before this date your contract could be unenforceable and effectively void. If this is the case the debt could be completely written off and you would not have to repay a penny!

This could result in millions of pounds of consumer debt being written off so its no wonder the banks don’t want this to get into the mainstream!

Has anyone actually managed to do this?

Yes. The BBC’s Panorama programme recently reported on a couple from Rugeley who decided to challenge the banks themselves and managed to legally write off six of their credit agreements, totaling £37,000 worth of debt. But because they didn’t fully understand the legal process and decided against seeking advice from a professional claims company, they were stung with a hefty legal bill at the end which closely equated to the amount that was written off! Ironic I think! So if you are thinking of having a go at writing off debt yourself, be sure to do your research before you start!

How can I do this myself?

Before I go into this I would advise speaking to a professional who has legal experience as you don’t want to end up with a huge legal bill at the end!

Firstly you must send a CCA (Consumer Credit Agreement) request under section 77 or 78 of the Consumer Credit Act to your lender not forgetting the standard £1 fee for this made payable to the lender (best to send all payments by postal order). Along with this you should send a ‘Subject Access Request’ under the Data Protection Act 1998 along with the standard fee of £10. Your lender is legally obliged to accept these requests and provide you all the transaction details and information held about you on their system.

Remember not to sign any correspondence you send to them. This is very important because if they cannot supply a signed copy of your agreement then the debt is unenforceable and the contract is not effectively legal and you could have the entire debt wiped out and not have to repay a penny. There have been rumours of lenders forging signatures from CCA and Subject Access requests in order to make the agreements valid so be sure not to do this. Also send all correspondence by recorded delivery.

Are You a Victim of Legal Malpractice?

If you have ever hired a lawyer in good faith only to end up being abused, neglected, or misrepresented by your legal representative, you may have been the victim of medical malpractice. If you are not sure whether or not your lawyer has abused your professional relationship, there are a few things you should do if you feel something is not right. Don’t ignore any feelings or suspicions you may have. It is always best to be cautious instead of ignorant. Follow these steps if you feel you are the victim of legal malpractice.

If you are in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask your attorney what is going on with your situation. It would best for you to prepare a list of questions and concerns you may, so you don’t forget to cover anything. You need to find out what is happening and why. Allow your lawyer to explain his reasoning for misrepresenting your case or not taking your case seriously enough. Document everything. Don’t forget to get copies of any court filed paperwork your lawyer has that pertains to your case. If you see any discrepancies, ask for clarification.

If something still doesn’t add up, you need to figure out why. Request your file from your attorney. Unless you ask, your lawyer doesn’t have to provide you with any of his personal files regarding your case. Don’t assume that he is just going to give them to you if you don’t say something. As your lawyer, he is contractually obligated to provide you with any and all information that is relevant to your case. If your case is still active, don’t forget to request a copy of all motions, discovery and pleadings. Don’t worry about whether or not you have fished paying your lawyer. Even if you owe them money, they have to comply with your request.

Find a legal malpractice attorney. If you are still not entirely sure as to whether or not you are a victim, consult with a legal malpractice lawyer and explain your concerns. They will be able to assess what you have told them. Show them any documents you have. They will be able to tell you if your suspicions are valid or not. If it is determined that you have a case, you should get prepared for another court battle. Although your legal malpractice lawyer will be doing all of the work, you need to make sure that you are prepared nonetheless.

Before you hire another attorney, remember you need to make sure that your finances are in order to pay this professional. Depending on the details regarding your case, your new lawyer may not require any payment from you upfront. Discuss the financial details in advance and get everything in writing. Make sure you agree with all the details of you and your new legal malpractice lawyer working together before you sign anything.