Getting sued is never fun, I know.  Not only is there the time and the expense of mounting a defense but you also must contend with the stress that comes along with having your life under a microscope.

And if you think being the defendant is tough, then try being the plaintiff.  Sure, some lawyers will take on suits for a portion of the settlement but what they don’t tell you is that they are extremely picky about the cases they take on.  While this makes sense from the lawyer’s perspective – after all, time is money – it can make it more difficult to sue someone with little upfront expense.

With that in mind, there are five ways you can lower the expense of a lawsuit.  These tips can be used if you need to retain a personal injury attorney or if you are trying to protect your small business from crippling legal expenses.

#1 Engage an Attorney Early in the Process

Yes, this might sound counter-intuitive but a good attorney will help you to navigate the process and this will lead to a lower legal tab over the long run.  As such, you want to reach to a lawyer even before the paperwork is filed.  One of the biggest reasons is that they might steer you towards some form alternative dispute resolution – also known as ADR.

Think of it this way, a great surgeon always views surgery as the last option and the same is true for the best attorneys as they know prolonged litigation eats up time and money for everyone involved.

Another benefit of engaging an attorney early in the process is that gives you an opportunity to talk to more than one lawyer about their view on the case.  Think of this as getting a second opinion – again this is something out want to do before you are too far down one path or another.

Finally, this process will help you to build a relationship with your attorney and in doing so you will gain a trusted advisor that you can use for other personal matters in the future, such as buying a home, launching a business, or even selling a business.

#2 Use e-Discovery

Ok, this might not sound like a ‘personal finance’ tip but e-Discovery will help you to lower the cost of a lawsuit.  Think about it, having all, or most, of the documents related to a lawsuit in digital format, will make it easier to search and by extension, this will reduce the amount of time needed for research while the legal team is setting up the case.

You see, lawsuits are massive research projects and as such having as much of the information in a format which is easily searchable makes it easier to get the answers you need.  Still not convinced?  Just look at how your kids prepare their research papers for school, compared to how we used to do it in the days before the internet.  Gone are the index cards and the hours in the library as they have been replaced by electronic archives, keyword searches, and tagging documents for future reference.

#3 Be Prepared for Pretrial Motions and Depositions

Just like the Scout Motto, it pays to ‘Be Prepared’.  In this case, the goal is to set up any pretrial motions you and your attorney want to file in advance and to walk through the deposition process as the goal of opposing counsel will be to poke holes in your complaint.

In addition, to having a game plan for this step in the process, you want to lay out your expectations for how much all this activity will cost.  Even if your attorney has taken on the case for a percent of the settlement, you still want to make sure you are in control of how much time, and money is being put in the case, and more importantly what impact all this effort will have.

#4 Look at the Alternatives

As previously mentioned a good lawyer will help you to look at all the alternatives available to you.  This includes considering mediation, arbitration, and whatever settlement options might be available to you.   By helping you to weigh the outcomes of these alternatives against costs of continuing litigation you can work out which path offers the lowest cost with highest benefit.

#5 Check the Meter

The best way to make sure you are not surprised by runaway legal expenses is continually check the meter.  In this way, you can keep tabs on how much time your attorneys are spending working on you case, and by extension, how much this service is going to cost you.

While great legal work does not come for free, you do need to make sure you are protecting your finances as well as your rights.  The best way to do this is to have an honest and ongoing conversation with your lawyer about how much your case costs and what you are getting in return.

There you have it, five ways to lower the expense of a lawsuit.  Use these tips to maximize your investment in legal services and you will not only come out with the best possible result in your case but you won’t go broke in the process.

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