It is no secret that attorneys cost a lot of money. Here are some pointers on how to avoid spending more than you must on your lawyer:

  1. Choose wisely - Ask questions about how an attorney charges (hourly? flat rate? contingency?) and how the charges are calculated (by the tenth of the hour even if 6 minutes were not spent on the case? by a larger fraction? by a percentage of the "winnings"?). Select a lawyer who shows he or she can make an independent decision about the fights to pick; the 24/7 warrior will most likely be the most expensive soldier you'll ever hire. Ask for an estimate of the likely total amount you are expected to pay. Except for flat rates, no sane lawyer will give you firm numbers, but he or she should be able to give you a range of the cost. If you can't get any indication, be afraid, be very afraid.

  2. Let your lawyer do the lawyering - There is nothing more expensive than paying your lawyers to help you, working around them to see if you can do the job yourself, and then paying your lawyers to fix the mess you made. 

  3. Don't make your lawyer ask you more than once - If you've hired a lawyer who charges for her or his time, failing to act when the lawyer wants something only means the lawyer must ask again - for which you will be charged a second time.

  4. Know the difference between your lawyer and your therapist - Your lawyer is supposed to deal with issues about the law, and facts that address the issues of the law. Yet, they are often asked questions that are not answerable, like why a spouse did what he or she did, or are made to listen to complaints about life with "the ex." For those circumstances, talk to your therapist; at least your therapist's charges are covered by health insurance. 

  5. Know that your lawyer (if you have a good one) will tell you things you don't want to hear, and deal with it well - If you have a lawyer who is a reality-checker, as opposed to a robot who simply does what you want regardless of the law, the lawyer often will give you news you don't want to hear. The less expensive way to handle it is to ask questions so you understand the information, then accept it. The more expensive way is to ask questions, ask if the lawyer can reconsider, try to change the lawyer's mind, demand obedience, ask why is this happening to you, have a meltdown while talking to your lawyer, then either accept what the lawyer said or hire a new lawyer to start all over again. 

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