There are a few basic controls that will enable you to keep legal costs as low as possible.

The first is to reach a clear up-front understanding about the scope of the project and the manner in which the attorney will bill for his or her services.  Most often, the fee will be based on the hourly rates of the personnel performing the work, but the lead attorney should be willing and able to estimate the number of hours that will be required.

The estimate will vary based on factors such your willingness to use junior level staff when the lead attorney believes it appropriate and the extent to which you can provide supporting materials and narrative. One of the more critical factors is your availability during the project. Your lawyer will be more efficient if you answer questions quickly and clearly, and really pay attention to the questions that your lawyer is asking you. A lot of times they have very specific points of understanding that they’re trying to get to, and they structure their questions to help you cut through all the unnecessary side issues. You may think some of the side issues are important, but the attorney is likely pointing out that they while the issues may be important, they are not really relevant to the specific legal issue at hand. When it comes to dealing with the more emotional aspects of your project, an attorney really just wants to get to the critical questions:

  • What are the facts?
  • What are the issues we need to tackle?
  • What are the results you’re looking for?

Trusting your lawyer’s judgment about the approach to questions and information gathering will result in better control of your legal costs.