Minimizing Legal Fees With Cases in Multiple Courts
It is not uncommon to have cases in Family, Criminal and/or Immigration Courts. Here's some advice to minimize the legal fees.
Clients often come to see me with problems in more than 1 area of the law. For example, Client A may be in deportation proceedings because of a criminal conviction. Client B may need to go to family court to obtain proper paperwork validating a marriage for immigration. Client C may have a domestic violence charge in the criminal court system and divorce proceedings in family court.
I often use the analogy of these different courts as a "three ring circus." I have to remind clients that they are different cases, in different courts. They need to be thought of separately, but often they do "touch" or overlap. Having a case in two (or sometimes all three!) of the different arenas at one time can feel like a circus. It can also be very expensive. Often, it involves multiple legal fees and, sometimes, multiple lawyers.
When faced with such a situation, I offer the following advice:
1. Look for an Attorney who has Practiced in the Two or Three Areas
My advice for someone who has issues involving 2 or 3 areas of law is to look first for an attorney that has experience with all of those fields. The attorney may specialize in one field, but should also have handled some cases in the other fields so that they are familiar with the issues that can rise up and cross lines or lead to problems in the other areas.
2. Comprehensive Consultation
You really should find an attorney that you feel comfortable with. So, I recommend clients talk to a few attorneys. It is a big decision. If you have more than 1 case, the legal fees WILL involve, most likely, thousands of dollars.
Many attorneys offer a "free" consultation. The one I offer, for example, is over the phone. Some attorneys choose to offer the first 30 min. free. A client should be wary, however, that if he does have several issues, the consultation could become very expensive.
I have found that the best, most cost-effective method for my clients is to offer a longer consultation that is an in-depth, in person review of a case. I will block off about 1-2 hours, in my office, to have a face-to-face meeting with the client. I charge about half of my hourly rate for this. During the evaluation, I go through the facts of his case with him and discover what arenas we may be fighting his case(s) in. For example, do we need to go to several courts? I will answer any questions that he may have, and I will follow up with him afterwards.
3. Hiring More than One Attorney?
Hiring one lawyer that can handle all of your cases can certainly save you fees and costs. Attorneys are like any business person, and they will often give some discount for having two or three cases. In addition, having 1 lawyer handle both cases means that you do not have to double the work of the lawyer to get to know the case and issues within it.
However, sometimes there are very clear strategic advantages to hiring 2 (or even 3) lawyers for the different cases that may be involved. If there is a very specialized issue in one of your cases then you may need someone with specialized expertise. Not having it could result in the case not being handled properly. That could be disasterous! It may also be that it would be helpful to have another lawyer handling a portion of the case to preserve privilege or have that lawyer as a witness in one of the cases in another "ring."
I recommend going to an attorney that practices in more than 1 field for an initial consultation so that they can help give you an idea, from the beginning, of whether you need an additional lawyer.
4. Ask for a Litigation Budget
Finally, do not be afraid to ask for a litigation budget. When I represent companies, they always ask me for this. There are always issues that can arise, that make a budget increase, but litigation budget issues are things that you should be free to talk over with your attorney. A client should be very careful of lawyers who are not conscious of your budget or honest with you about fees and about the different proceedings that might be need in a case (or two or three).