January 23, 2017

Time and Your Lawyer – Seeking Advice

When we engage professionals seeking advice, we need to understand what we are actually doing and what is involved in the process.

The services offered by professionals are varied and many. The services will generally comprise two parts – first, the seeking of knowledge from the professional you consult and secondly, the time you are buying from the professional.

The knowledge you seek might relate to health, accounting, legal or other matters, but you will generally be seeking advice from a qualified professional. This professional will usually be an accredited person whose right to offer advice in a given field is approved by a body which regulates the field of expertise.

We are all familiar with going to see our doctor. Your doctor will have undergone a course of study and other rigorous testing before he or she can practice medicine. So, like lawyers, accountants and other skilled professionals, you want to tap into their knowledge for guidance or to solve a problem.

So how does all this work?

Skilled professionals charge a fee for service. If you go to a doctor they will charge you for a short or long consultation or other service provided. We’re all familiar with this concept.

Lawyers and accountants charge for time: the time that you use to get advice and direction. Lawyers do have fixed fees for some services, such as uncomplicated wills and conveyancing (buying and selling of houses etc), but as a general rule they will charge for their services on the basis of time spent dealing with a particular matter.

Obviously, complicated matters cost more than straightforward matters.

Always ask your solicitor for an indication of costs before setting an appointment. You will probably be given a range for fees but that will simply indicate that, unless there is a fixed fee, no one, including your lawyer, will know exactly how ‘long the piece of string will be’.

So how do you save on legal costs?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Always prepare for your meeting with a lawyer. Make sure you make a list of the issues you need to discuss.
  2. Stick to the issues when you meet with your lawyer. Don’t ramble on about issues which are not necessarily relevant to your enquiry/concerns as this uses up valuable time.
  3. State what you are about succinctly. Above all, be clear on what you want to know.
  4. Listen. Take notes of the answers/advice you get from your lawyer. After all, you are paying for the advice and being clear about the advice you get is vitally important.
  5. Remember that sometimes the things which you think are important to an issue might not really be the case. Your lawyer is trained to get to the meat of the issue. This means advice given to you might be very different from what you considered to be the important points.
  6. Always remain open. Pre-conceived ideas you might have before seeing your lawyer might not assist you.
  7. Any questions which you might have should be on the point – be relevant.

After you have met with your lawyer, whether or not you act on the advice is a matter for you to decide.

Your enquiry might simply have been one where you were seeking clarification of an issue so that you had peace of mind.

Always remember this:

The advice you get from your lawyer might not be what you want to hear but better that you get good and factual advice rather than the wrong advice. The wrong advice generally leads to false hope and in the end an unsatisfactory outcome for you.