By: Jay Young



OW THAT YOU HAVE CHOSEN AN ATTORNEY, HOW DO YOU KEEP FROM GIVING HIM OR HER A BLANK CHECK’? IN MANY ways, you control the amount of fees. Remember the famous saying once attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade.” Every time you or anyone calls or writes your attorney, you will be charged for the time needed to field the call or read the letter. You can save fees by following a few tips:

                    Prepare a detailed chronology, complete with important

                    dates, details of conversations and correspondence be-

                    tween the parties. Nobody is more familiar with the

                    facts surrounding your case than you are.

Your attorney may spend hours and hours poring through

                    documents trying to make heads or tails of what has hap-

                    pened, but you can save time and fees by taking a few

                    moments to provide an outline of what happened and when.

Organize your documents in chronological order and flag those documents that are most important and that tell your side of the story. It you want, you can highlight sections of documents, or refer to them in your chronology. Give your attorney all documents, even if you don’t think they will he helpful, because your attorney has an obligation to give the opposing party a copy of all documents that might be relevant. I have had too many clients hold documents back, thinking they weren’t essential, only to find out later (and many times too late) that the documents contain the proverbial smoking gun.” Don’t forget to include any notes or even doodles you created while talking on the phone with anyone involved in the suit.

Prepare a list of all witnesses. Include all people who have, or could have knowledge about any portion of the lawsuit. Provide their names, employers, positions, addresses and phone numbers. It is better (much better) to give more information to your attorney than less. You may even want to give your attorney a short written narrative about what each person may know, may have witnessed, or told you about the event.

Bring skeletons out of the closet. If you have something to hide, assume somebody will find it, because they probably will. You will only hurt your own cause and end up costing yourself more money when you try to keep damaging information away from your attorney. Armed with knowledge of your weakness, your attorney can fortify your position against an attack. There is nothing worse to an attorney than being blind-sided at trial with information his client didn’t disclose because he thought nobody would ever find out.

Consider keeping a pad of paper on which to write ideas, questions and concerns about your lawsuit. When you have a few of them written down, call your attorney or set an appointment to see him. Once you have his undivided attention, discuss all matters on your list until you are satisfied. If you don’t use this method, you may find yourself calling your attorney five times a day and you may be charged for five calls at the attorney’s minimum billing increment instead of for one conversation.

Ask if there are matters you or your staff can handle. Many times a client can obtain information, run errands or perform document gathering and organizing tasks that will advance the cause of the lawsuit and save money. Don’t be afraid to tell your attorney that you are concerned about fees and want to handle some ministerial matters yourself.

                                                             Jay Young is a shareholder at Marquis &

                                                             Aurbach whose practice focuses on gen-

eral , civil and commercial (business dis-putes..



September 2005. (Pg. 67)



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