Top 10 tips for reducing legal fees on divorce
The phrase ‘talk is cheap’ certainly does not apply to the legal fees incurred when going through a separation and needing to resolve the division of finances and the arrangements for your children. Most solicitors charge by the time they spend on your case; this includes meetings, calls, drafting documents, writing letters, attending hearings, and dealing with the communications they receive from you and your soon to be ex or their legal team. Remember this adage instead ‘time is money’.
Something I am often asked is how clients can minimise their legal fees. Whilst much of the process is outside of your control, there are some simple ways you can take to reduce your legal fees:
Tip 1 – Only use your lawyer for legal advice
Whilst most lawyers are highly empathetic individuals with a wealth of advice on managing people through their experience, we are not trained counsellors. If you want counselling support, a counsellor is likely to be much cheaper. Alternatively, your friends and family will also provide you with a sympathetic ear for free or perhaps for the cost of a takeaway and a bottle of something! Remember that spending time talking to your solicitor about the unfairness of it all or every transgression made by your ex-partner will be charged for at their hourly rate.
Tip 2 – Direct your question to the appropriate person in your divorce team
If your query relates to something like whether a letter has been received or sent, your lawyer’s secretary can probably answer this for you, and probably for free. The secretary is not, however, legally qualified and cannot give you legal advice. A trainee or paralegal might be able to give you a progress update, but they are not able to have a conversation with you about the overall strategy of your case which is a matter for the lead solicitor. Directing your query to the wrong person could lead to you paying more than you need to or duplicating costs between multiple people on your team.
Tip 3 – Repetition does not make a point better
Asking your solicitor the same question multiple times does not mean you will get a different answer. Whilst you may have forgotten the answer, meaning you have to ask again, try and be organised about your relationship with your solicitor and avoid repeating the same questions. For the more transactional questions, see if your solicitor has a fact sheet or jargon buster that you can refer to as a ‘check in’ as things progress.
Tip 4 – Be patient
Solicitors are specialists, but they are only human. They will need time to digest the content of an email, so a phone call immediately after hitting send will mean that your call is unlikely to be as effective as sending the email and asking for a convenient moment to discuss the contents. Also, if you send multiple short emails across the span of a day it is inevitable that this will take longer for your solicitor to deal with than if you send one email with multiple queries in it.
Tip 5 – It’s a team effort
If your solicitor asks you for information or documents, please provide those in the timeframe requested or inform your solicitor if you are going to need additional time and why. Otherwise, your solicitor will need to badger you for the information or documents and you will pay for the privilege of being chased for them.
Tip 6 – Be organised and structured
When asked for information and / or documents by your solicitor, try and be organised and structured in the way you provide them. Even if providing documents electronically, think about the best way to access that information to ensure your solicitor does not need to spend time organising the documents to understand the content.
Tip 7 – Give your solicitor time
This may sound counter intuitive as I have already said that time is money, but time to deal with matters in a calm and structured fashion is likely to mean that the overall time spent on your matter is reduced. This can include booking a meeting (either face to face or virtual) following receipt of key documents to talk through the content or scheduling a call to discuss matters on the telephone if that is more appropriate. Set an agenda for the call / meeting and share that agenda with your solicitor in advance so that they can ensure any pre-reading has been completed so that you make the most of the time together.
Tip 8 – Principles can be expensive
Separation is a very emotive time and one of the most stressful times of your life. It is important to recognise that you can get caught up in the moment. Take some time to reflect on whether your objection is an emotional response or one which has a logical basis. There are absolutely times where you need to be robust with your soon to be ex, but there are also fights which in the long run are not worth having.
Tip 9 – Be strategic
Your solicitor will have talked to you about the various options for reaching agreements, from mediation through to arbitration and court proceedings. Don’t stick slavishly to one option if it is not working. Out of court options can be fantastic, but if they won’t produce an agreement then you can end up in a position where you are duplicating costs rather than cutting them.
Tip 10 – Minimise correspondence
It can be tempting to rely on your solicitor for everything, but remember that there will come a time when your solicitor will step away, particularly for those who will need to manage co-parenting into the future. Think about what you might be able to agree directly and whether it is possible to minimise the correspondence that your solicitor needs to deal with in order to reduce legal fees. This could be by agreeing a long-term schedule of arrangements for the children to prevent the need for weekly negotiations on when and where handover should be.
If you want to know how we can be a part of your divorce team, please do get in contact with our specialist family team, who will be more than willing to advise on your specific circumstances.