How do I get started?
Get a referral. Ask friends or family for a referral to an attorney who they have used in the past and had a positive experience with. If those attorneys cannot help with your particular case, they can likely refer you to someone who can. Do not rely solely on yellow pages ads or other advertisements. At Brock, Payne & Meece, P.A., we are always happy to provide you with referrals to reputable attorneys who can assist you if we are unable to do so. There is also a lawyer referral service through the N.C. Bar Association.
Do some research. Go to the law firm’s website and learn about what areas of law the attorneys practice, who the attorneys are, their levels of experience, etc.
Ask questions by telephone. If possible, try to speak with the attorney or his or her assistant before the consultation so that you can ask questions about costs for the consultation, what documents you may need to bring with you, etc. Our firm has some forms available on our website that we may ask you to complete and bring with you to better prepare for your consultation and get us the information we need to get started with your case. Our office typically offers a free 30 minute consultation, so there will only be a charge for the time that exceeds the initial half hour in most cases. Ask about the attorney’s hourly rate so that you will know how that cost will be billed.
Schedule a consultation. There is no substitute for meeting an attorney face-to-face and discussing your case, to ascertain not only whether they can handle your case but also whether you like the attorney and feel the level of confidence and trust in that attorney which is necessary for a positive attorney/client relationship.
Be prepared. Bring any documents the attorney has requested as well as any documents you feel may be relevant to your case. For example, if you have an existing court order regarding child custody or child support that you want to change, bring a copy of the order. If your case concerns a contract dispute, bring a copy of the contract and any correspondence that has taken place between you and the other party.
Consider your financial resources. Will you need to put the fees on a credit card, ask a family member for assistance, or transfer funds from an investment account to cover the fees? Consider these possibilities before your consultation so that you are prepared to discuss how and when you could pay the attorney’s fees and get started with your case.
How do I minimize my costs?
Be informed. Know your lawyer’s billing policies. Most lawyers bill at an hourly rate for any work they or their office staff do on your case, from making copies to appearing in Court. Make sure you understand exactly what the rates are and what exactly they will charge you for. It is always best to have a contract with your attorney, signed by both of you, clearly spelling out the terms of your relationship. Always stay up to date on your case and know what needs to be done. If there are tasks that you can complete, such as gathering and providing information, this will save you money because your lawyer will not have to spend the time and your money doing them.
Organize your thoughts. Perhaps the easiest way to quickly run up a big bill are excessive meetings or multiple phone calls. Most lawyers charge at an hourly rate, and all work for the client is billed in increments of an hour. For example, at Brock, Payne & Meece, P.A., as with most firms, attorneys and their staff bill in increments of tenths of an hour, or six minutes. Thus, any work done on your case for any portion up to six minutes will cost you a tenth of the lawyer or staff member’s hourly rate. Many clients call several times in a day with details that they neglected to ask about in their previous calls, and they get charged for a tenth of an hour for every call. To avoid this, write your questions down, plan in advance for in-office meetings and telephone conferences. This way, you can probably get all the answers in fewer calls and meetings, and owe substantially less money at the end of the day.
Prioritize. Make sure that you know what is important to you. Some cases can be extremely emotional and you need to decide whether it is more important to you that things are resolved in an equitable manner as quickly as possible, or whether you are really intent on using prolonged litigation as a punitive measure against the other party. Make sure that you are not pursuing something to fulfill an emotional need because you may find very quickly that what you are paying vastly outweighs what you will get in return.
Avoid litigation. Litigation is a lengthy process which allows the Courts to resolve your case in a formal lawsuit. It is slow, costly, and often frustrating. Avoiding litigation through reasonable negotiation or mediation with the other side can save you from having to pay your lawyer for every hour you spend waiting together in the Court lobby for your case to be heard or preparing endless documents for the discovery and to meet court requirements. Also, if it gets to the point of litigation, you may lose some control over your case and end up having to accept whatever the Judge decides is a reasonable settlement, which may not match your wishes at all.
See if you qualify for discounts. Brock, Payne & Meece, P.A. honors discounts on our services for clients who are members of various referral organizations. For example, CLC members and AARP members are both entitled to up to a 25% discount on legal services provided by our office.
Free consultations. Many law firms, including Brock, Payne & Meece P.A., offer clients a free 30 minute initial consultation in most situations. This is a great opportunity to save money while shopping around for an attorney you think can handle your case with the expertise necessary to work accurately and efficiently, which will also keep your costs down.