If you are unsure of what your counsel is doing, or if you are unsure why you have been billed for a particular activity or cost, ASK QUESTIONS. While the work or expense may have been fully justified and needed to protect the Association’s interests, you are the client, and you are entitled to know what expenses you are incurring.
Clearly state what work you want performed and what opinions you want from counsel to help reduce costs. Make sure you choose the right person as your primary contact with counsel and be sure the person can relay information clearly. Direct communication with counsel can be an essential part of cost controls, so consider when instructions should come from a board member rather than the management company.
Your attorneys are sending you information every time you get billed. Don’t look just at the amount due, but look at what your attorney has been doing and what kind of expenses you are being billed for. The text of your bill will show signs that the case is becoming difficult or that costs are about to escalate. By reading the bill, you may be able to ask questions before costly time is incurred that the Board may choose to forego. Your bills let you know exactly what you are spending your money on, so don’t simply let management file them away before you read them.
Ask your attorney for a risk versus benefit analysis, particularly on anything that is not routine. If you don’t understand the steps involved in the legal process, get an explanation before you proceed. You need to know what the worst case scenario might be - it can happen.
Some debts will never be collected. Litigating bad debts gives money to your lawyers but adds nothing to the Association’s coffers. Legitimate steps can be taken by counsel on the chance of success, but you will pay for the costs even if they are not successful. Be willing to cut your losses just as any business must on occasion. Do not continue when the cost outweighs the chance of recovery.
Your decisions to pursue legal claims should include an evaluation of the costs and options. Options can include alternative billing for certain types of legal work or could include creative fee arrangements. Every other business knows to ask about fees up front; so should you.
Evaluate Your Retainer
Evaluate your retainer arrangement with the law firm at least annually. If you are not getting value, drop it. Your attorney will continue to work without the extra retainer cost.