Draft Documents: How to Help Reduce Your Legal Fees

Clients can help lower their billable hours (thus, legal fees) by allowing their lawyer to prepare draft documents and memos in the early stages of the work that are not polished and refined to the level of a Harvard law review article.  This is particularly important when preliminary issues, research, and strategies, etc., are still in the thinking-on-paper stage.

And, I am certainly not talking here about being lazy. Rather, the thought process, ideas and framework of the draft must still be directed toward perfection; but not every single name, cross-reference, typo, etc., needs to be eagle-eye reviewed and revised at this stage.  It is the repetitive, final eagle-eye review of draft documents that can increase, unnecessarily in my view, the client’s hourly fees.

Remember also lawyers often are products of overbearing parents and highly competitive law schools where every dotting of the “i” and crossing of the “t” was essential in the race to the top. Law school students are drilled for three years with the perfection of Harvard’s “The Blue Book”, essentially a catechism on the proper (or the only) way of citing court cases, statutes, regulations, etc.  Lawyers, by trained instinct, typically find it very difficult to give a client any document other than with the same perfection that was demanded by their law school professors.

Thus, early-stage draft documents can be like painting a room. The first 98% takes as much time as perfecting the final 2% (particularly repeated eagle-eye reviews to make sure there is absolutely no typo, and so forth).

For many draft documents I add the following header so that my clients are aware my draft is not merely the product of my oversight and unintended failure to make that final eagle-eye review. This also lets the client know I am fully aware of this approach to draft documents and points out my desire to help keep the client fees in check:

JMK Draft – May 9, 2012 

I will make my final close-review of this document for typos, name spellings, cross-references, etc., after we arrive at the format of a final draft copy. Repetitive, final close-reviews while we are in the preliminary drafting stage, in my opinion, unnecessarily increase my billable time and your legal fee.


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