Feb 27, 2024

How To Help Reduce Costs By Being Proactive

There is an old joke:A person asks a recently divorced friend: “Why is divorce so expensive?”The recently divorced friend replies: “Because it’s worth it.”Over the fourdecades I have been involved in family law, there is no doubt that costs for a divorce have increased substantially.Just using an inflation calculation,what was $100 in 1983 becomes over $300 today.Beyond simple inflation, for a firm representing high-net-worth individuals and complex cases, finding and developing the most talented lawyers has far exceeded simple inflation.For people involved in a long-term marriage where substantial wealth and income have been accumulated, a divorce will be one of the largest financial transactions a person may experience during their life with long-lasting ramifications not only on themselves but also their family. When talking with prospective clients, there are the big three questions commonly asked:how much will it cost; how long will it take; and what will be the results?I answer these questions honestly, I do not know.Any lawyer with any degree of experience who can answer these questions with any degree of certainty in a high-net-worth and complicated case is not being truthful (or is delusional).There are too many interpersonal dynamics and unknown issues that come into play for there to be any meaningful basis to answer such questions.In financial cases, clients can help reduce these costs.My top three tips for clients to help reduce costs are as follows:1.Be Proactive, Especially With Gathering InformationIf you have access to records and information, gather what you have sooner rather than later.This information can be electronic (now preferred) or paper copies of bank and financial account statements, credit cards, tax returns and things of this nature. For more complicated situations with businesses, trusts, investments or the like, getting access to documentation and information concerning ownership, agreements, tax returns, and other financial information is one of the keys to success.Whatever the client has or can get at the beginning of the case is more than the attorney or their staff has.Very few people have everything readily available.Somehave extraordinarily little.Proactive clients who do not have immediate access to this information can go to and/or reach out to banks, financial institutions, credit card companies, accountants, estate planning professionals and the like and request copies of records. While I have encountered some people who would prefer the attorneys rely on requests made to their spouse to obtain the information; some spouses do not necessarily produce everything they should and usually not as quickly as requested. It is always best when the client gets involved and helps provide whatever documentation he or she can to their attorney.This information, even if not complete, is the starting place for the attorney to use to compare what is known to exist with what the opposition produces or represents exists.When I have clients who, at the beginning of representation, have attitudes of “just handle this for me”, I quickly remind them that their involvement in the process helps lead to a quicker conclusion.The point here is not to incur attorney’s fees and costs to have attorneys spend time requesting and getting information that can be gathered and produced more expeditiously and easily by the client.The more accurate information that is quickly gathered will not only reduce the fees, but this will also allow the issues to be addressed earlier on in the process.2.Be Organized and Effective in CommunicationsEspecially in the beginning of the case, it is wise for the client to write out questions or concerns.At the very first interview between the client and the attorney, this is a learning process for both.The attorney learns from the questions what is important to the client and the client gets educated as to how issues get resolved, alternatives and how the process addresses concerns and questions.As the attorney-client relationship develops, there will be many emails and phone calls.Instead of multiple communications, developing a list of issues and questions to be discussed promotes substantive communications.It is my experience that emails are a good means of communicating information but is not always the ideal forum for addressing substantive questions or issues.For example, emails are good for conveying factual information as to what is happening in the home; scheduling when someone has to be in my office; or describing a specific task that needs to be completed.More substantive questions such as to how a particular issue is being dealt with or a more strategic issue concerning actions or reactions to events cannot be efficiently dealt with in emails.Having phone calls or in-person meetings as substantive issues develop enables a free flow of ideas and exploring additional issues that may arise while addressing the original issues.Trying to do this in emails often leads to a large amount of time and disjointed communications as opposed to a more focused in-person discussion, which ultimately saves both time and fees.3.Be Responsive to RequestsEveryone gets busy.A divorce is a developing dynamic which, over time, should result in moving the case forward with resolutions.For the client, this is one of the most important events in their life.When the attorney needs information or actions by the client, putting off supplying the information or requested actions always creates problems.The attorney and the client are a team.The attorney needs the client’s participation, and the client needs the attorney’s advice, guidance and execution of the strategy to move the case forward.If something is requested, both the client and the attorney need to be responsive.Delays to responding to requests or issues only creates more issues which invariably prevents progress. If the client has the luxury of being represented by a firm that enables the client access to a team (the lead counsel, other partners, associates, paralegals and staff), working with everyone promotes the expeditious resolution of the myriad of issues (both process and substantive issues) that arise.Clients who are engaged, organized and responsive not only may get the benefit of a reduction in fees, but may also have a potentially more efficient proceeding leading to a successful ultimate resolution.

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