Taming Your Legal Bills (Part 3 of 4)

Buying Real Estate

Podcast Episode 18: “Taming Your Legal Bills 3/4 – Hourly Fees.”

Complex legal work on real estate deals is typically billed by the hour. In this episode, Barry provides helpful tips to improve service, get better results, and reduce legal fees.

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Complex Legal Work Costs More; Watch Out for those Extras!

Now let’s talk about how to save legal dollars on more complex work, which is usually billed on the basis of time, complexity, and value to client. Your lawyer can’t tell you a fixed fee when s/he doesn’t know how much time or effort it will take to do the work. But here are some things you can do to keep your costs in line.


  1. Set A Budget. Have some idea in your own mind how much you want to spend.


  1. Ask For An Estimate. If your lawyer can’t tell you precisely, s/he can usually give you a range of fees. If all or part of the lawyer’s estimated legal account is outside your budget, reconsider and discuss again.


  1. Add A Warning/Reporting System. Tell your lawyer that you want a report and updated estimate after s/he has spent a certain amount of money and then perhaps at another money milestone. This will help you decide and control whether or not your legal work is proceeding the way you want it to.


  1. Try Not To Change The Terms. Of course, if you have to change something, then you have to. But changing the terms of what your lawyer is already doing for you or unilaterally amending a contract almost always means a bigger legal bill. Even small changes can add a lot to what your lawyer has to do or re-do.


  1. Get Your Lawyer On Board: For these more complex deals, it is always worthwhile to give your lawyer a call and have a brief discussion. Collectively, you and your lawyer might decide that a face-to-face meeting is required to have more discussion. You may or may get billed for this conversation. These discussions and meetings, however, are aimed at positioning you properly to go ahead (or not) with your more complex transaction.


  1. Use Brief, Non-Binding Fact Summaries. These briefs help to move your deal forward. The summaries are often referred to as ‘letters of intent,’ ‘deal sheets.’ or ‘memorandums of understanding.’ You write out roughly what the deal is and talk to the other side to see whether or not they agree. If so, then you can proceed with more formal paperwork and have a better chance of success. This is way better than spending a whole bunch of money on legal fees to draft a 25-page document only to have the seller say “this isn’t the deal” or, “I changed my mind.”


Barry has decades of experience as an Alberta real estate lawyer; he’s your best choice for complex transactions. Get in touch today!

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