How to cut your legal costs

by Kamal Hassan

As an entrepreneur, one thing you tend to overlook is the legal side of running a business. Lawyers are expensive to work with and talk to, so the tendency (when you are working in a cash-conversing mode) is to just avoid them. I know, because I do this myself. Of course, avoiding your legal work is risky. Legal paperwork is a little like an insurance policy: if you don’t pay your insurance, you won’t really notice or care, until something goes wrong. Then, all of a sudden, you have nothing to fall back on.

I’m going to assume for now, that you have already found a good lawyer (a topic for another blog). How can you get the most out of them, and cut your legal costs? 

The ideal is to get a lawyer who is happy to share templates with you. Most legal agreements start with a basic template, that the lawyer simply modifies. Ask the lawyer if you can use their template, and make the first draft of whatever the document is yourself. If they aren’t willing to do that, you can often find a standard template online that you can download and edit. The problem with this is that many lawyers are particular: each lawyer may have their preferred language for a non-competition clause. If you use a template which isn’t theirs, they may end up changing the wording of this basic clause. This is more inefficient than just starting with your lawyer’s own template.

Beyond the template, all legal agreements tend to have two components: the business elements, where you are the expert, and the legal elements where your lawyer is the expert. If you have a template, you already know what the basic legal elements are. (Even without a template, you can still write out the business clauses and the lawyer can add them afterwards.) The best way to communicate the business elements to your lawyer is to try to type them up yourself. Then, the lawyer can look through, see which parts of the template apply or need to be modified, and see what wording on the business elements isn’t clear or needs to be changed. This also increases the chance that the terms will be written in clear language, that you understand. If you write the first draft, you will clearly understand what it says: if the lawyer writes the first draft, it may be incomprehensible to you.

Asking your lawyer to edit or comment on a first draft that you have prepared is also much faster for them. And since you are typically paying them hundreds of dollars per hour, and yourself much less, you can save a lot of cost by doing this first rough draft.

If you use IncMind, you can also cut legal costs through shared document filing, giving your lawyer access to the latest version of all your legal files. This is much more efficient than paying your lawyer hundreds of dollars an hour to search through his or her own files for the right document, which may not match the one you got signed anyway. For more, go to IncMind.com.