Be organized

The more time a lawyer spends trying to understand your story the more expensive it will be for you. When consulting a lawyer, first state what your problem is, and what outcome you are trying to achieve. After providing context for your matter, then elaborate on the story. If you have supporting documents, bring them in a neat binder and try to organize the documents inside in a sequence and manner that makes sense. This will make it easier for your lawyer to focus their billable time on analyzing your case rather than organizing documents. 

Be clear about the scope of the matter you need help with

Sometimes, clients’ problems have many related aspects. Be clear about which of those aspects you need help with. For example, do you simply want an advisory opinion or do you want the lawyer to handle the entire matter for you? 

Strategies for controlling your legal costs

 In addition to being concise and organized:

Confirm your billing arrangement with your potential lawyer

Does the lawyer you are consulting charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for certain services? Do they accept contingency agreements (where you pay nothing upfront and the lawyer is only paid a percentage of any monies recovered)? Make sure you discuss your budgetary limitations so the lawyer understands if, or to what extent they can help.

Take advantage of free consultations

Sometimes, lawyers will provide 15 – 30 minutes of free advice. Before you invest your time and money in pursuing a legal matter, it is good to know whether you have a case and what to expect from the litigation process. 

When receiving free guidance, you must respect the lawyer’s time

Most lawyers in private practice earn through billable hours and not fixed salaries. If they do not bill, they do not get paid. So if a lawyer is willing to give you free advice, do not press for more than they are willing to provide. Pushing for more time or services will make them less open to providing free consultations in the future. 

At some point, you must decide whether you want to retain the lawyer’s services or not. So be focused in describing your problem and the outcome you want to achieve. Do not repeat the same points you have already told them. Further, while your matter may be causing you distress, it is unproductive to spend your free consultation expressing your frustration. Focus on sharing the information that the lawyer need to determine how to guide you.

A free consultation does not mean that you have formally hired the lawyer

When a lawyer provides you with a free consultation, this does not make them your lawyer for the purposes of your case. Free consultations are for guiding you about what matters to consider and what your options are. The consultation does not mean that the lawyer officially represents you. Also remember that at the consultation stage, the lawyer will have limited information about your specific matter. Therefore, their advice is of a general nature and is not meant to be a full analysis of your case.

For example, you may contact a lawyer to ask whether you were unjustly dismissed by your employer. The lawyer may ask you a series of questions about what happened, or how long you worked for the employer. They will give you general advice on what employees’ are entitled to in such situations, or how you can file your complaint. If you want dedicated help, you will need to retain the lawyer for more comprehensive help with your specific situation.

Communicating with your lawyer

Lawyers are often busy with multiple files. Sometimes, delays in legal matters result because legal processes often move slower than many clients expect. If you feel that is has been a while since your lawyer updated you on your matter, call for a progress report. Do not wait in frustration before making contact. Open and candid communication is always beneficial to both sides. 

Confirm which methods you prefer to receive certain communications

Do you prefer to receive your bills by email or by post? Do you work odd hours which may need accommodation? Do you live or work in an environment where text messaging is more appropriate for brief communications? Do you regularly check your voicemail to ensure that urgent messages are not missed? Think about these issues and make sure you establish mutually agreeable lines of communication with your lawyer.


Often, clients may have friends or family members helping them with a legal matter. However, only the  lawyer’s duties and loyalties are to the formal client on the file. If you want specific persons to have access to your file or to be able to make certain decisions in your absence, make sure you confirm this with your lawyer in writing.

No communication medium is full proof. However, avoid communicating any sensitive information through methods that may be compromised. If you prefer to receive certain documents or information by email, make sure it is as secure as possible and that the amount is exclusive to you and those who you want to grant access to your matter. Each client is in a different situation so make sure you discuss your preferences with your lawyer.


The information on this website is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or a contract for legal services with Runyowa Law Professional Corporation. If you need formal legal advice in a covered practice area, please contact Runyowa Law Professional Corporation at 1-306-206-2800