How to Keep Your Legal Fees Down

Our "Top Four" Ways to Save
Money on Attorney Fees

1. Keep calls short. Think before you call. "Do I need to call? Why? Are there three things I want to discuss? What are they?" Tell us up front: "I need to keep this call to ten minutes." Keep track of time! Ask us: "How long was this call?" Be specific when you leave a message, so we are ready when we talk to you.

2. Economize on emails. Ask: "Why I am emailing? Will one email do instead of four? Do I just need to vent? Can I call a friend instead? Do I want the attorney to review 20 emails? Are only three really important?" You get the idea.

3. Get Organized. We spend a lot of time organizing and understanding the records, documenting contacts, preparing for meetings, court, and following through. If you are able to organize your documents, that means we are able to spend time just reviewing them and getting things together for court.

4. Tell us the TRUTH. We can only advise you based on what you tell us and if you don't tell us all of the facts then we may not be able to achieve the goals of your case.

Our Goal: To Keep Your Fees Down
We want to serve our clients the best that we can, so we need to keep our fees as low as we can and still have enough left over to run the office. So we need to get paid for the time we spend on our cases.

To control your legal fees, you need to know how they work. Many people don't, so here's the (short) course on what you need to know about how we "bill our time."

What do those funny little "0.2's" and "0.4's" on our bill mean?
First, understand how billing "by the hour" works. For billing purposes, we divide our time into tenths of an hour. Our standard "billable" rate is $225 per hour.

The table below shows how the hourly rate works.

Time
(in minutes)

Range
(in minutes)

Percentage of one hour, as shown on bill

Cost at $225 hourly rate

5

0-6

.1

22.50

7

7-12

.2

45.00

13

13-18

.3

67.50

19

19-24

.4

90.00

25

25-30

.5

112.50

31

31-36

.6

135.00

37

37-42

.7

157.50

43

43-48

.8

180.00

49

49-54

.9

202.50

55

55-59

1.0

225.00

So how does it work? Let's say you call us to discuss your case. If we talk for six minutes at the $225.00 hourly rate, your cost is $22.50 (0.1 x $225/hour = $22.50). If we talk for a half-hour, your cost is $112.50 (0.5 x $225/hour = $112.50). But what if the call lasts seven minutes? Or what if it lasts 31 minutes? How is that charged? Answer: We round up to the nearest tenth of an hour. We have a timer on our phone that we use to keep track of our time. Do we ever make a mistake in our time-keeping? Sure. We encourage our clients to keep track of their time and review our bills carefully. If you believe we made a mistake, please let us know (especially if you think we undercharged you!).

Our "True Confession"
We admit it. In general, we like our clients. We want to help. We enjoy talking with them - even when the conversation meanders a little. So you need to be vigilant! And please don't misunderstand. We're happy to talk with you about the price of gas or the last Arkansas game. But that's not why you're calling us. So stay focused and keep your attorney fees down!

Some ideas for keeping your attorney fees down
If you're concerned about keeping costs down (and who isn't?), here are some ideas:

  • Phone Calls. This might just be the biggest "bill-inflater" for clients. We suggest ways to keep your costs down in the inset box above. The bottom line: know why you're calling; stay focused when you call; always remember that the billing clock is "running"; and don't hesitate to tell us if you want to keep the conversation to no more than ten minutes or whatever. As they say, "it's your nickel."
  • Emails. We love email! We use it constantly. But be aware: It's another potential "bill-inflater." Why are you emailing us? Got a question? Want to provide information? Bring us up to date? Think about why you're doing it before you start it. Ask yourself: Is this important? Maybe you don't even need to send it. Keep the message short. Use numbered lists to highlight important information. Don't worry about making it perfect. Got a few typos? No problem. Usually, we can figure it out. For more ideas on saving money on email, see the inset box.

· Focus on fees! Focus on your fees and ask questions. We don't mind. Really! Carefully review your bill. We provide detailed descriptions in the bill of what we did, when we did it, and how much we charged. We think we do a good job of keeping accurate time records. But we don't claim to be perfect. See a mistake on your bill? Call us! Don't understand a charge? Call us! Have an idea on how we can reduce costs? Let us know! We're always willing to talk with you about your bills and how to keep your attorney fees down (and, of course, we don't charge you to discuss charges).

  • Get Organized. We like making money, but why pay us to help you with things, like getting and organizing your records, that you can do for nothing? Every member of the team has his or her role to play. To keep your attorney fees down, think: Is this something I can do on my own? That doesn't mean we don't need all of the text messages or emails for your case, but you can point us to the most important. If you have a video or audio recording, make a note of the time where the most important things happen, better yet, if you can transcribe it with the time stamps that will save you a lot of money.
  • Stay off the yellow brick road! To paraphrase management consultant Stephen Covey (and switch metaphors): "If you put your ladder against the wrong wall, every step you take up the ladder just gets you to the wrong place faster." When we first review your case and meet with you, we will carefully analyze with you where you are, where you need to go, and how best to get there. It is important for you to tell us the TRUTH, even the bad stuff up front. That improves our chances of "picking the right wall." Getting clear on your goals and strategy - and avoiding dead-ends - will save you time, money and aggravation. But keep this in mind: A ladder that looks like the right ladder in the beginning isn't always the right ladder. The "right" path often isn't clear. Just know that we will always do the best we can with what you give us.

A Final Word
Money, as some say, is nothing but an exchange of value. You hire us when you are unable to solve a problem that needs solving. You want to get fair value for your investment. We can never guarantee a certain result because there are too many factors that are beyond our control. But you are entitled to expect that we will work hard.

If you're like most people, you don't mind paying your lawyer (well, okay, maybe you do mind!), but you want to understand what you are paying for and you don't want to pay more than necessary. That's true whether you're dealing with attorneys or appliances! We share those goals. Being efficient has no downside! So follow the tips we provide here, and everybody benefits!

Our time is our product, much like your mechanic. We quote you a price based on how a case should go in the best-case scenario. The other side can always do something that leads to us having to do more work, which we have no control over, but we do our best to let you know ahead of time when a case is likely to go over the stated retainer amount.

Law Office of Vickie Lynn Cochran
Old World Plaza
425 W. Broadway, Suite H
North Little Rock, AR 72114
Phone (501) 372-3530
[email protected]