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5 Cost Cutting Tips for a Trial Lawyer

Running a plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm is damn expensive. By the time you get a case to trial, you might be hoping for a settlement just to pay off the case expenses. Been there, done that. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are our top 5 tips for cutting the costs of a personal injury lawsuit.

Tip #1: Insist upon Electronic Medical Records

When requesting medical records from doctors and hospitals, your cover sheet should insist upon the production of electronic medical records only. Pursuant to the HITECH Act of 2009, you and your clients have the right to insist upon electronic medical records, as opposed to the more expensive and cumbersome paper copies.

Make sure your cover letter is crystal clear that you are demanding electronic medical records only and you will not pay for paper copies. If the medical provider ignores your letter and sends paper copies of the medical records, don’t pay them! This tip alone can save over $1k for a single request for medical records and the ultimate beneficiaries will be your clients.

Tip #2: Put Expert Witnesses on a Budget

When you retain an expert witness, you should insist that the expert stick to a firm budget for her fees. Send an email/letter to the expert with the terms of their service and insist upon pre-approval of fees that exceed the initial retainer.

If the expert exceeds the initial retainer without your prior approval, don’t pay him! We recently had a written budget for an expert witness of $8k that covered his preparation for trial and trial testimony. The expert’s final invoice was $12k, exceeding the budget by $4k. We reminded the expert of our agreement/budget, and we only paid the initial agreed upon retainer.

If you don’t put expert witnesses on a written budget, they will have carte blanche to bill for as much as they want. The experts’ fees will sky-rocket and you will have no budget or control over case expenses. You can’t run a plaintiffs’ law firm without written budgets for your experts.

Tip #3: Use a Third-Party Lender to Pay Case Expenses

Ever wonder why your operating account seems depleted? Most of the time there is a single culprit: exorbitant case expenses. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Third-party lenders, such as Advocate Capital, will pay your case expenses and at the end of the case, you recover the principal and accrued interest from your clients’ recovery, i.e., your clients pay all fees to the third-party lender.

Our firm does not pay a penny in case expenses and our clients don’t seem to mind once we’ve explained in advance why we do this. Using a third-party lender to pay case expenses will free your cash flow for marketing and when reimbursed by your clients, there is no cost for you. This is ethical and at least for our firm, a no-brainer.

Tip #4: Do-It-Yourself Videotape Depositions

If a deposition is worth taking, it must be videotaped. Non-verbal expressions, e.g., facial gestures, body language and voice fluctuation, simply aren’t captured by a deposition that is not videotaped. But the costs of videotaping depositions with a videographer can range from $400 and $800, even for a 45-minute deposition of a lay witness. So, what do you do?

There is no rule that you can’t videotape the depositions yourself, i.e., eliminate the videographer. Serve a notice of the videotape deposition that states that you or a member of your law firm will videotape the deposition and learn the procedure for videotaping depositions.

The set-up of the video camera, sound mixer and microphones only takes 10 minutes and with each deposition, you save between $400-$800. Over the course of a single case involving a dozen depositions, you can save $10k and your clients will be grateful that you’re careful with their money.

Tip #5: Eliminate Unnecessary Expenses

Every month, go through your itemized list of expenses with your bookkeeper and cut the expenses that are not absolutely essential, e.g., “We don’t need this.”

Actual businesses worry about profit from day one.

Rework”, by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

By constantly re-evaluating the expenses with your bookkeeper and staff, you eliminate unnecessary expenses and lower your overhead.

How Can We Help You?

We will be happy to share:

  • Our letter requesting electronic medical records,
  • Our written terms of service/budget for expert witnesses, and
  • Our video procedure for DIY videotaping of depositions.

Just send an email to cskidmore@fishermalpracticelaw.com with the subject line, “Send Me your Cost-Cutting Forms”.

photo credit: Got Credit Finance via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.