To save money on legal fees, my golden rule is to always keep records to help you build your case. But there are things you must do before you start.
To be effective you need a reasonable knowledge of your rights and responsibilities. If you are going to stand up for yourself, as of course I want you to do, you need to make a plan and be able to follow it through.
Here’s how to save money on legal fees:
Identify the problem
If you’re in any doubt about what your problem is just describe what is happening, such as ‘I’m being abused by my partner’, ‘my boss is harassing and bullying me at work’, ‘I’m being stalked by my ex’, ‘I’m in dispute with my neighbour over a boundary’, ‘contact with my children is being obstructed by my ex’ and so on. The problem is what is happening, not what you are feeling about what’s happening, nor is it the consequence of what’s happening or the cost of what’s happening or how you want to stop what’s happening. Just the facts of what’s happening that is the cause of your troubles.
Search the internet
Once you can describe the problem you can search the internet to find out more. Most importantly, go to trusted websites like Citizens Advice which is good for a wide range of problems. ACAS has an excellent website if it’s an employment problem and it doesn’t matter if you’re an employer or an employee, they help everyone. Charities dealing with particular problems can be excellent, such as the Mankind Initiative if you’re a male victim of domestic abuse. The gov.uk website is very useful for public service information such as getting injunctions in domestic abuse cases. See what you can learn from the guidance they offer. You’ll feel much more confident if you understand how others define the kind of problem you have and how it can be resolved.
Identify your rights
These first steps should enable you to start to identify your rights. For example, if you were to look into stalking and went to the Crown Prosecution Service website, you’d see how they define it and what kinds of things constitute stalking. Stalking is a criminal offence so the thing to do is go to the police so that they can investigate it, helped by whatever evidence you have. In the case of a non-criminal problem, like an issue with contact with your children, you’d learn online that you can make an application to the family court to ask for a court order to take control of the situation. In some instances, such as domestic violence, you may go to the police who can charge an offender and bring them to the criminal court and you can also go to a solicitor to get an occupation order and/or a non molestation order in the family court.
Find out what you need to prove to make your case and where to go to get it resolved
If you carry out your searches thoroughly you’ll find out what you need to show has happened to you to prove your case and where you need to go to get it resolved. It might be, for example, the police, or solicitors, or the court directly if you’re unrepresented. It could be the HR dept at work, an organisation’s complaints department, a regulator or an ombudsman.
Start making records
As soon as you’re familiar with what you need to prove, start to make records of the problem. The myonrecord.com website and the ONRECORD mobile app guide you through the process of record keeping and the app makes it easy to give an account of events and upload supporting evidence which will help to build and make your case. You can backdate entries to cover the things that happened before you started the record keeping and you can continue keeping records as new events occur.
Get help if you can
If you can get legal aid or can afford legal fees, get legal advice. If you can get legal aid, some solicitors still do this work or there could be a Law Centre nearby to help you or else you can get some help from other charities like Citizens Advice. You can share your ONRECORD evidence with any of these organisations so they can use the material you’ve collected and help you get the paperwork done. Otherwise if you’re a litigant in person i.e. going to court alone, you can use the chronology produced by ONRECORD to help you present your case in court.
If you follow this guidance you’ll be more in control and more effective whether you’re being advised or you’re doing it all yourself.
My videos on YouTube and our website cover a wide range of topics. I talk about specific problems to help explain what you need to prove, explain using the mobile app and its benefits, discuss how difficult it can be to get a problem sorted and the reasons why and finally give some motivational messages. On our website you’ll find case summaries where we’ve made records of some problems to show you what’s possible and how they can look.
Take a look at our most recent blog post advising how you can save money on legal fees using ONRECORD.