How to Reduce Your Costs When Using a Lawyer

You have a legal matter and you need legal counsel, but the idea of all those fees leaves you feeling concerned, and stressed out before you even begin. How much time is it going to take? What are hourly fees? How much is it going to cost in total? In this blog, we discuss some methods to reduce your costs when engaging with legal counsel.

It’s important to understand where legal fees come from before you can understand how to reduce your costs. Most law firms will operate on an hourly basis with fees accruing as time is billed in 0.1 of an hour (six minute) increments. These rates are decided on to account for training, experience, urgency, and to cover the overhead required to keep the office running, including rent, utilities, insurance, law society fees, non-billable work, and so on.

Another area costs are accrued are through the disbursements on a file. While these can be firm specific such as photocopying or printing costs, long-distance calls, and postage, they can also include items paid to a third party such as court fees to file documents, land titles registration fees, due diligence search costs, or corporate registry charges.

We have included some ideas below to help you manage your legal spend.

Three tips to reduce your costs

1. Be prepared and know what you want.

Our number one tip for reducing your costs when using a lawyer is to be organized and know what you want to get from your lawyer’s involvement. Every lawyer has had a case that seems to drag on forever and can increase fees, simply because there isn’t a clear direction and the scope of the engagement may continuously change.

When you and your lawyer share an understanding of what has happened on your file and where you want it to go, it is easier to get there quickly and efficiently. It may be that your desired outcome is not possible, but without having an idea of what you’d like to see happen, it is much harder for legal counsel to provide suggestions.

2. Organize your documents.

Messy files require time (and therefore money) to sort out. Whether they are in paper copy or digital, having taken the time to organize your documents means you have a much better understanding of where your file is – and you can communicate this easier to your legal counsel. It also saves time for the legal counsel on the file to be able to navigate the documents efficiently and purposefully in your file.

If you have paper documents, we recommend scanning them in at 300 dpi, black and white (unless colour is absolutely needed to understand the document), and letter size as it will make document review much smoother. For all scans, try to avoid having documents on their side, or even upside down!

This is especially true on files where there is an abundance of documents to go through. While this tip may seem to matter less if you only have a small number of documents, in our experience it is surprising how much effort can be saved even from simple steps. Large, poorly scanned documents can require alternative delivery methods, while documents scanned with the above parameters can typically be simply attached to an email, even if there are dozens of pages. You may be surprised at how much time can be saved on your file if there are more than 10-20 pages by having them organized neatly.

3. Explore alternative fee arrangements.

The best way to save money and avoid a large surprise legal invoice is to know exactly what you’re getting into, and to have that scope well defined with your lawyer.

Fixed fee arrangements are becoming increasingly common in the legal profession. At Nicol Law, we are proud to offer a variety of set fixed fee services, such as employment or litigation reviews. This is a great way to know exactly what you’re getting and for how much before you start. While fixed fee agreements tend to be offered for more repetitive tasks, we’re always happy to discuss the possibility.

Contingency agreements are also a great way to avoid having to pay a large legal invoice at the conclusion of your matter. Typically, lawyers will undertake matters on a contingency arrangement only where there is a strong case. Blended contingency are another arrangement where a portion of the fees are collected at a certain percentage, but a portion of fees are collected based on a reduced hourly rate or as a fixed-fee arrangement. In certain cases, lawyers may consider these arrangements to reduce your exposure to legal costs, unless and until you achieve a certain outcome or benefit from legal services.

The above does not constitute legal advice. To obtain legal advice on your matter please contact Nicol Law at or +1 587-887-5876.