Keeping Your Business's Legal Bills Under Control

Some tips for small business owners to lower the costs of legal representation.

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by Sarah Taylor

If the thought of out of control legal bills is keeping you from hiring a lawyer for your business, you should know that there are some things you can do to keep your legal bills under control. You should also keep in mind that it will cost a lot less to hire a lawyer to prevent legal problems than it will to hire one after you have a problem.

Most lawyers charge an hourly rate. You should try to get references and recommendations and then compare the rates that each lawyer charges. Remember, though, that the lowest hourly rate may not provide the best value. A highly experienced lawyer may charge a higher hourly rate, but may need to spend less time doing research or may be faster at preparing documents. Hire a lawyer with experience in the area of business law so you won't end up paying more when it takes your lawyer longer to get things done.

After you've selected a good lawyer, you can still help keep your bills lower. One way to do this is by not asking your lawyer to do things that you can do yourself. Think about whether or not the task really requires a lawyer's knowledge and skill. For example, your lawyer may offer to make phone calls to gather information you need to complete a licensing application. But if you can gather the information yourself and then provide it to your lawyer, you'll save a lot of money.

Another strategy to save money is to be focused. When you visit your lawyer, be prepared by knowing what questions you want to ask and what you need to cover. Don't let the meeting get off track by engaging in too much personal chat or by asking unrelated questions out of curiosity. Remember you are being charged for all of the time you spend with your lawyer whether it is on task or not.

While you do want to cut down on the time your lawyer spends, if you become aware of any potential legal problems, don't wait to see if they turn into real problems before you let your lawyer know about it. Often times, quick action by your lawyer can put an end to a problem before it gets out of hand and ends up costing you a lot more.

Finally, keep track of the time you spend with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer to account for how the time you're being billed for was spent. If you don't get an itemized bill ask for one. If the amount of time you are being charged for doesn't seem right, call your lawyer to discuss it. Your lawyer may respond to your objections by reducing your bill.

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