As legal services practitioners generally charge an hourly rate for their services, wise clients will endeavour to ensure that the time spent servicing the client file is kept to a minimum. Quite simply, the less time spent, the less money spent. Accordingly, clients can often help themselves by helping the practitioner to handle the client's matter in the most efficient and effective manner as possible. Here are some cost savings tips whereby the client can help to keep legal expenses to a minimum.
When leaving a voice mail message, in addition to asking for return call, briefly provide a purpose for the anticipated conversation. This enables the practitioner to prepare for the anticipated telephone discussion rather than being caught off guard and using extra time coming to understand the purpose of the conversation and gathering documents.
When communicating by email, avoid using a generic comment or question as the subject line of the email such as, "Just Checking In" or "Here's the Information", etc. It is important to remember that you are likely handling only one legal matter whereas the practitioner has a filing cabinet full of ongoing legal matters. A generic comment or question as the subject line of an email is both annoying and time consuming.
In our firm, we ask all clients to use the case name (in legal we call it the "style of cause") and file number when communicating. The subject line should simply read something such as, "Smith v. Jones (File: 12345)". There are two primary reasons we ask clients to get in the habit of communicating this way. First of all, we receive dozens of emails each day and if, for example in the Smith v. Jones matter, a practitioner is waiting for an important email from Mr. Smith, an email with the subject line marked as "Smith v. Jones (File: 12345)" will be quickly recognized as relating to the case for Mr. Smith and get the prompt attention needed. If the email from Mr. Smith was simply subject marked as "Here You Go" or "As Requested", it is possible that the practitioner will fail to recognize this as the important email awaited when among dozens of other emails sitting in an inbox. Secondly, we often use students and other non-licensed personnel to do filing in the office. When the practitioner has finished handling an email and puts a printed copy in a pile for filing by the students, an email with the subject line showing, "Smith v. Jones (File: 12345) immediately tells the students which file the email belongs to; otherwise, the student may need to interrupt the practitioner for clarification or instructions - which wastes time.
When communicating by email, gather all your thoughts and documents and send all in one email. A properly detailed and diligent legal practitioner will be keeping an accurate file containing all client correspondence; however, it takes time for the practitioner to print an email and then file the email both in hard copy and electronic copy as well as complete a time docket for the task. On average, just 'filing' an email, without even attending to whatever the email message was about, takes two minutes. If the client sends a message followed by another message and yet another and another, these multiple messages take two minutes each just for the task of filing - again not even considering the task of handling whatever the message was about.
When sending electronic documents be sure to provide each complete document as a complete electronic document, preferably in PDF format. A ten (10) page document sent as ten (10) separate JPG files or other format takes a considerable amount of extra time as each page must be downloaded, printed, and then scanned together as one PDF. The client can usually do this for free whereas the practitioner will be billing legal fees in an hourly rate (and wasting the practitioners time with downloading and scanning documents does very little on the actual 'legal issues).