Diligent preparation by clients can cut legal costs: Tailor
By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
To reduce billable hours in family law cases, clients need to be well prepared for meetings and respond in a timely manner to requests, says Mississauga family lawyer Deepa Tailor.
“Provide your lawyer with all documents when requested to minimize the back and forth, and respond to emails or phone calls in a timely fashion, so the law office doesn’t have to follow up with you repeatedly,” says Tailor, managing director of Tailor Law Professional Corporation.
Legal counsel will need time to prepare for any upcoming court dates, so don’t show up at a lawyer’s office days ahead of the trial and expect full services, she says.
“We need at least two weeks’ notice of any court appearance, to prepare and find the relevant evidence to make legal arguments the best that we can,” Tailor tells AdvocateDaily.com.
When initially meeting with legal counsel about a family law matter such as crafting a separation agreement, she says clients should bring in all the relevant documentation required to build a case, including notice of assessments from the last three years, income statements and information about mortgages or other debts.
Tailor says lawyers are put into a difficult position if someone starts a self-represented legal action, then later decides to bring in professional representation.
“Lawyers will make every effort to put that client in the best position possible, but one of the problems with joining the process midway through is we need to spend a significant amount of time fixing mistakes,” she says.
That may include disclosing evidence that was overlooked earlier in the legal proceedings, Tailor says. “We need to go in and request that disclosure, which may or may not be granted by the judge.”
Clients don’t see the work that lawyers do on their behalf behind the scenes, such as filing records, making appearances at trial management conferences or preparing witnesses and making sure they are able to attend trial on a certain date, she says.
“People may not always be aware these tasks are being done, but that background work has to be completed and the final bill reflects that effort,” Tailor says.
One option that Tailor’s firm offers is a limited scope retainer, also known as unbundled services, allowing clients to opt-out of certain legal services while paying for others.
“If you just want me to draft your legal documents but are comfortable making the court appearance by yourself, we should discuss the unbundled services option,” she says.
“We can provide you with coaching and advice, but you’re going to remain self-represented, which helps control costs,” Tailor says.
She says the popularity of unbundled services is increasing, though it’s not the best option for more complex cases, which are better handled by a legal professional.
“Generally speaking, we try to work as efficiently as possible in order to minimize the legal bill, while providing the legal expertise and knowledge clients need to build their case,” Tailor says.
After clients receive a bill, she says they need to understand why some of the charges are listed.
“Some of the expenses that appear on the bill don’t put money in our pocket since they are disbursements, such as court filing fees or paying your process server,” says Tailor.
“The law firm doesn’t make any money from those charges, as we are simply compensating ourselves for expenses we have incurred on the client’s behalf,” she says.