Budgeting Legal Services

Budgeting Legal Services: How to Pace Your Case Progression Based on Your Monthly Budget

When engaging legal services, many individuals find themselves concerned about costs. Legal cases can be complex, and the associated expenses can quickly escalate. However, with strategic planning, it is possible to manage costs effectively by pacing the progress of your case in alignment with your monthly budget.

  1. Understand the Billing Structure Legal fees can vary significantly depending on the type of legal services you require. Before you begin your case, ensure you understand your lawyer’s billing structure. This is typically outlined in your contract for legal services. Currently, many lawyers use a combination of fixed fee and hourly billing to provide greater predictability and objectivity to clients to help them better anticipate their fees.
  2. Establish a Budget Once you understand the billing structure, establish a realistic budget for your legal services. For an example, $2000 covers just under 6 hours of legal services at $300/hour after applying sales tax.
  3. Communicate with Your Lawyer Open communication with your lawyer about your budget is crucial. Share your budget constraints and ask for advice on how to pace your case. Your lawyer should be able to help you prioritize the most critical aspects of the case and plan a timeline that aligns with your budget.
  4. Prioritize Critical Actions Work with your lawyer to identify the most critical actions in your case. This may include filing documents within a certain timeframe, obtaining disclosure, or attending court hearings. By focusing on high-priority actions, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and maintain control over the pace of the case. Additionally, explore options for unbundled legal services where you handle parts of your case yourself with coaching from your lawyer. No one has an unlimited budget and unbundled legal services are an appealing option for many.
  5. Consider Phased Progression In some cases, it is possible to break the legal process into phases. This allows you to focus on one phase at a time, limiting costs and providing opportunities to reassess your budget.
  6. Use mediation, out of court negotiations, or handle negotiations yourself as appropriate. Mediation can be more cost-effective than traditional litigation. Handling negotiations yourself while obtaining advice from your lawyer can work well for many. Your lawyer can also advise if out of court negotiations or going to court immediately would be a better option for your budget and the specifics of your case.  Explore alternative dispute resolution options with your lawyer to see if they could help you stay within your budget while resolving your case efficiently.
  7. Review Monthly Invoices Regularly review regular monthly or bimonthly invoices to better understand how billing works so that you can conduct yourself accordingly. Ensure that your lawyer sends you invoices on a regular basis (1-2x per month) so that you can assess how your budget is being used. Be open to discussing you budget using the itemized invoice as a guideline .
  8. Plan for Unexpected Expenses Despite careful planning, unexpected expenses can arise during a legal case. Its wise to set aside a contingency fund to cover these costs. This will help you avoid financial stress if the case requires additional work or takes an unforeseen turn.
  9. Explore Payment Plans If you face a significant expense, ask your lawyer about payment plans or other financing options. Many lawyers are willing to work with clients to create manageable payment schedules.
  10. Maintain Flexibility Finally, remember that flexibility is key when budgeting for legal services. While it is important to pace your case based on your budget, you should also be prepared to adjust your timeline or budget if the situation demands it. This adaptability can make a notable difference in achieving a favorable outcome.

By following these tips, you can effectively budget for legal services and pace your case progression according to your monthly budget. Remember that open communication with your lawyer and careful planning are the cornerstones of successful budget management in legal matters.


Additional Reading:

  1. Unbundled Legal Services
  2. Flexible Payment Plans
  3. Pricing