As we say good-bye to 2019 and welcome 2020, many of us have created a list of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps your community has made a resolution to lower expenses? Perhaps your community took it one step further and resolved to lower legal expenses? But how is an association to do that?
Below is a list of five ways to lower your legal expenses:
1. Although this may sound counterintuitive, one way to lower legal expenses is to ensure your community retains legal counsel to review any contracts over $10,000. Retaining an attorney to review contracts will definitely cost money up front, but it can save you much more in the future should something go wrong with the contract. A legal review should ensure the pertinent contract adequately protects the association from contractor breaches and other problems that may occur during, or after, performance of the contract. Associations that do not have their attorneys review contracts oftentimes end up paying much more in legal fees to fight over the contract when things actually do go wrong.
2. Ask the attorney for a cost-estimate or a flat fee to perform certain work before asking him/her to actually do the work. This will afford your board an opportunity to ensure adequate funding for the project and further protect it from unfortunate surprises when it receives its legal bill.
3. Before calling the attorney, have a written list of all the legal questions that need to be asked. This will save the association money by eliminating the need to make multiple follow-up phone calls to the attorney and spending more billable time on the phone with him/her.
4. If the attorney is attending a meeting, make sure the meeting is well-organized so you are not paying the attorney to be there any longer than necessary. For example, don’t make the attorney sit through a homeowner forum if that’s not what the attorney is there for. Move the schedule around so the board can speak with the attorney first and then move on to the forum. By the same token, don’t pay your attorney to sit through a presentation by the insurance broker before having the legal discussion. Save your money and have the attorney discussion first so you can let the attorney leave and stop the billable hour.
5. Be careful with emails—they cost money. Oftentimes, emails are treated like telephone conversations with lots of back-and-forth discussion; however, these types of email exchanges take quite a bit of time and end up costing associations more in legal fees than expected. If there are lots of follow-up questions, it is likely cheaper to call the attorney because we talk faster than we write. Also, it is easier to resolve issues on the phone, most often, than via email. So think twice before engaging in a long email discussion with the association’s legal counsel. It will likely cost the association much more than you think.
Now that you have some tips on lowering legal expenses, don’t be afraid to start putting these ideas into play. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact an Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999 if you have any additional questions concerning saving money on your legal fees.