How To Lower Legal Expenses
Okay. I am trying to hide behind my keyboard.
I told you before that I was going to write a BIG article on how to save on lawyer’s fees and expenses because my wife, the uppity attorney, made me include that lengthy legal disclaimer on this website (hey, that disclaimer applies to this page as well). We’ll see just how “uppity” she is after she reads this! Gawd, is she gonna squawk [Good thing I know how to cook... with a microwave].
First of all, do your legal research!
Do you need a straightforward contract for, say, the sale of an item of personal property? Go to the Internet and look up what’s available for contracts. I can promise you there are tons of sample agreements and you can “cut and paste” to your heart’s content. Then, after you have done your best at assembling the agreement, call your local county bar association and ask for a referral, (they’ll usually give you three (3) names to start with), to a contract lawyer.
When you speak with the lawyer tell him or her that you already have a proposed contract and you just need him to review it and make the necessary modifications. This will save you hundreds of dollars – guaranteed – if you’re business-savvy enough to get the details down in writing. Why? because the lawyer is only charging you for the review (and possible modification) of the agreement — not for creating the agreement “from scratch,” if you will.
– Real Estate Contracts
In some states, its association of realtors drafts and provides standardized real estate contracts for the sale of real property. California is one of them, and in California there is no requirement that you must have an attorney attend the escrow closing. In Illinois, for example, you must have an attorney attend the escrow closing. So, in California, you can get your real property contracts through your realtor and you don’t need a mouthpiece at the closing. It’s the same in some other states, too.
Once again, do your research! Why pay an attorney for drafting contracts that are readily available and standardized? Why pay a lawyer to sit at the escrow closing? Get on the Internet and research your state’s requirements for real estate contracts and find out the information for yourself. This will save you hundreds of dollars!
– Business Negotiations
Many lawyers, (my wife included), love to be involved at the beginning phase of business negotiations for their clients for a number of reasons, not the least of which is — they can legitimately bill for their time. (When she was managing partner at a big law firm, she used to ride roughshod over the hapless unfortunates (other lawyers) who did not get their legal invoices out on time!) I tell you, the woman loves to bill!
If you’re an astute business person, however, (and if you’re in business you should be astute), you will not need a lawyer present at the beginning phases of the negotiations. After all, you will need to “nail down” the terms and conditions of the business relationship first before you bring in the hired guns. This will save you hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars. Just make sure that when you do need the lawyer that you are meticulous in your description(s) of the nature of the proposed business relationship. My wife has told me many times that the most competent business people — in any line of business — are the most inclined to use lawyers sparingly and only when they know they need them. ‘Nuff said.
If you should find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing court intervention to prevent someone from bothering you, don’t immediately pick up the phone and call a lawyer. Do your legal research! In some states, of which California is just one, all you need to do is go to your local courthouse and ask the clerk for a restraining order package of forms. For a few dollars, you will have everything you need to prepare for and attend the hearing in the court. And no, you don’t need an attorney present for that!
Boy, is she going to be mad at me! Really mad, when she reads about the Eva Mendes restraining order against me. A little later… I guess I should have known my wife would read this. She is really mad!
Back to our story… You don’t even have to type the forms — just fill them out (neatly) in black ink. These forms are self-explanatory: just follow the directions. When you’re finished completing them, take them back to the courthouse and file them. (There will likely be a filing fee, but you’d have to pay that anyway — lawyer or no lawyer). You will receive a court date where you will then suit up and show up and tell the judge why you need the restraining order. (Someone is stalking you, harassing you, threatening you, etc.). And no, you don’t need an attorney to do the talking for you — it won’t make any difference to the judge.
Of course, if you’re unsure about some aspect of this and/or you have a very serious case you will want to have an attorney review your paperwork. But having someone review it is a lot less expensive than starting with the lawyer from the very beginning.
You’ll save hundreds — if not a thousand — dollars. And, assuming your case has merit, you’ll get your restraining order, too.
–Marital Dissolution (Divorce)
If you and your spouse don’t have millions of dollars in assets, and you decide that you want to “hit the road, Jack”, you don’t need a lawyer to prepare and file your legal paperwork or represent you in court, for that matter. Once again, ask the clerk for a packet of forms for divorce, take the package home, (or to your girlfriend’s house…whatever), and fill them out in black ink. You will have to engage in some preparation in order to answer some of the questions, (finances, personal property, pets, etc.), but you’d have to do that anyway.
|As before, take the forms back to the court and file them and follow the directions for proper service of process. In many states, divorcing couples must see a family court mediator before they are permitted to have a trial, and as you may imagine, the vast majority of divorce cases settle with the mediator’s assistance. And in many instances, the mediator’s services are….free! So there’s a double whammy: no lawyer’s fees and no mediator’s fees. What a deal!
Of course, at any time during the dissolution process you can hire a lawyer for advice and/or assistance, but even so, that’s going to be considerably less expensive than starting out with one. You’ll save hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars!
If you have lots of money and/or assets, [and/or you have children and child custody issues and concerns], you will likely want to hire a lawyer from the very beginning, (of course you’ll have the money to pay him or her), but it is going to be enormously expensive!
There is no good reason why anyone in this day and age should die intestate. (That’s legal-ease for not having a will or trust). That’s because in many states you can write out a will in your own handwriting and it will be considered valid. This is sometimes referred to as a holographic will. This is especially handy when the person in question does not have much in the way of assets.
So, you don’t need to hire and pay an attorney to prepare a will for you — you can do it yourself any old time. Do your legal research! Go to the Internet to research and find sample holographic wills and do your own one fine, sunny afternoon. This will save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
See my wife’s lengthy and mandatory legal disclaimer. Yeah, it applies to this page and every other page on this site. If you don’t see it, this is what is going to happen to you too.)
You can even file your taxes for free, can’t you Clark?