FROM THE PARALEGAL’S DESK: How to decrease your attorney costs in a family law case

During the course of your case, you will likely work with the attorney’s paralegal. One major facet of the paralegal’s job is to organize and categorize everything about your case so it makes sense to the attorney and the attorney can access it, understand it, and use it to help you get what you want. Using a paralegal to do all of this is far more cost effective for a Client because the paralegal’s billing rate is likely half or less than the attorney’s billing rate. So, know that this is a good thing when your attorney has a paralegal because it will very likely save you a lot of money.

When working with a paralegal, there are ways to help the paralegal help you and those ways will save you even more on the cost of your family law case and attorney’s fees. The number one way you can decrease your attorney costs when working with a paralegal, is to respond to the paralegal’s request for documents immediately and completely—and that is what we are addressing here.

When the paralegal requests documents from you, it is because “production” of the documents is a Court Order. You must produce these documents to your attorney and your attorney must produce them to the opposing party. To not do so could mean your attorney is unaware of an essential fact they should know, or it could cause the opposing party to seek a Court Order compelling you to produce the documents and pay the opposing party’s attorney’s fees.

The most common way to produce documents in a family law case is by email, drop box or other electronically secure method. There are ways to get documents to the paralegal that are less expensive than others and mostly this has to do with getting the documents to the paralegal all at once—rather than a little each day or forcing the paralegal to contact you for missing documents you still have not sent.

FIRST, THE BAD WAY: The most expensive and least productive way to produce documents is this: each day or occasionally over a few months, send one or two documents—maybe one day send the Sworn Financial Statement by itself without any accompanying documents and then send a bank statement and a few credit card statements a few days later and then the next day send one pay statement and then the next day send a portion of a 2018 tax return and then the next a copy of your car lease, then a utility bill a few days later. This is the expensive way because the paralegal must stop what they are doing each time you send them something and turn their attention to what you sent and then determine what it is, how it relates to your case, whether it is a complete document, whether more of its kind is required by the Court or by the circumstances of this case, whether it matches with your Sworn Financial Statement, and how to categorize the document so it makes sense to the attorney when she reviews all you have disclosed. The thought process of the paralegal must shift, your case must be accessed and understood, the documents printed and filed and saved and possibly produced to the opposing party with accompanying notification to the Court. The paralegal must then determine if you must be notified that more is needed or there is an error in what has been produced—only to have all of this happen the following day or days throughout the course of your case.

NOW, THE GOOD WAY: The less expensive and more productive way to work with the paralegal is to compile all of the information and paperwork the paralegal requested. “All” means getting every single paper document or digital documents (like bank statements, scanned tax returns, etc.) together to email or send all at one time. For example, pull together 3 years of tax returns, every month of every bank statement and every credit card statement requested—together and in order, please—3 months of pay statements (or your LES), proof of utility bills, car insurance, leases or mortgage statements,  loan documents, car values, your completed Sworn Financial Statement, your IRA and 401(k) most recent statements and then send them in one or two big emails at the same time. If you forget to include something the paralegal can contact you and let you know what is missing. If based on what you submitted the paralegal contacts you about providing additional documents, that is fine. It is common to have document production require supplements and additional documents. But at least the vast majority is already in the attorney’s system, being processed and being used to help you in your case. Work with us this way and we will thank you and your bank account will feel the difference. At The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates, PC, we want to work with you efficiently and productively and affordably as possible. We want to make you look good to the Court by having you thoroughly complete what the Court requires, on time. We hope this article can help you find the motivation to gather all the documents we will need and send them all at one time, whenever possible. Saving you aggravation, time and money is out goal as we get you through your case.