I often hear horror stories about how much money has been spent in legal fees associated with a matrimonial or de facto property settlement dispute. Often lawyers are cast in a negative light in this regard. Whilst some blame can, from time to time, be appropriate, it’s imperative that those in dispute with their former partner give serious thought to taking control of their own legal fees and the direction of the dispute.

I recommend that you keep the following in mind:

1. Always keep in mind the bottom line. It makes no sense to expend $30,000 in legal fee if you stand to receive a settlement of only slightly more than that;
2. Give some thought to the “go away” factor, how much are you prepared to sacrifice in the context of negotiations in order to move forward positively and without the dispute hanging around your neck;
3. Seek experience and specialisation from your legal adviser (one doesn’t seek out a neurologist to discuss a broken foot);
4. Take time to consider the advice provided, and think seriously before disregarding that advice if you intend to do so;
5. Where possible exhaust the prospect of agreement via mediation or family dispute resolution before contemplating an Application to the Court;
6. Refrain from repeating discussions with your legal adviser about the same issues;
7. Utilise experienced and responsible administrative staff to answer any queries within their capacity and realm of expertise;
8. Where possible seek to prepare written instructions in relation to the history of a particular dispute;
9. When asked to collate documents, take some time to do so in an ordered and easy to follow manner;
10. Utilise email if this form of communication is embraced by your solicitor;
11. Communicate clearly to your lawyer what you need from them, consider putting together a series of questions in the week leading up to your appointment in order to ensure that you address everything on your mind;
12. Ensure that there is an open and honest dialogue with your solicitor in relation to your legal fees; and
13. Seek clarification as to how you will be charged before asking your solicitor to start work.

Professional service is all about reputation and client satisfaction. Be conscious that the great majority of solicitors want only to put you in a better position as a consequence of their involvement.