How to Reduce Legal Fees
One of the questions I am most frequently asked by clients is “what will this cost?” Breaking up is stressful enough. Add to that now relying on only one income and having two sets of household costs – the last thing anyone wants to think about are significant and uncertain legal costs. Don’t despair. There are several things you can do to minimise your costs and save your hard-earned money.
Tip 1 – Find out what you will need ahead of any appointments with your solicitor and bring all relevant information with you. Solicitors generally charge based on the amount of work they do. They more work they have to do chasing up information for you, the more you are likely to be charged. Many solicitors will have information on their website about what to bring to your first appointment. For examples, read here.
Tip 2 – Think about what you actually need the solicitor to do and what you can do yourself. If funds are tight, discuss this upfront with your legal advisor and work out together what the most important thing for the solicitor to do is. For example, drafting the orders you seek in a property or child matter can be quite complicated and it is wise to get a solicitor to do this. Applying for a divorce however, is much simpler, and something many people can do themselves.
Tip 3 – In property matters, it is really useful to prepare a list of all assets and liabilities (including superannuation) and the value of each item, in a spreadsheet format for your solicitor. The list needs to include all assets/ liabilities in both yours and the other party’s name, regardless of whether they are held jointly or individually by one party. It is helpful if the list shows which party owns each item.
The list should also include any companies or trusts that you are involved in. It is very common for family businesses to be run as a company as trustee for a family trust. In such a situation it is very helpful to also bring the financial statements of the business to your appointment as it will allow the solicitor to see what assets are held by the company/trust and how profitable the company/trust is. Copies of the company’s constitution or trust deed are also useful as are any searches showing who the directors and shareholders of the company are.
Tip 4 –If you are unsure what your assets are worth do your research. For example, you can look up websites such as www.redbook.com.au (for vehicles), approach a real estate agent for an appraisal (property), speak to an accountant (value of a business); or approach a second hand agent (furniture).
Tip 5 – Prepare a chronology of relevant events for use by your solicitor. In almost every family law matter your solicitor will need to know things like:
• Each spouse’s date of birth,
• The date of marriage or when the relationship started,
• Date of separation,
• Dates of birth of any children, and
• Any other significant events such as dates when an inheritance or compensation payment was received, or the date when major assets were purchased or sold.
Any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us.