Have an effective debt recovery plan
The best way to limit the cost of litigation is to limit your need for litigation full stop. Make sure your credit application policies are up to date to include the latest legal developments (such as the Personal Property Securities Act PPSA) and ‘cover the field’. Screening clients before letting them sign a credit application will also weed out potential future debtors.
Preparation is key
If things progress beyond debt collection and you want to launch into litigation the best first step you can take is ensuring that you are prepared before your first consultation with your lawyer. Take all the material that is relevant to your claim. Things like any contract or guarantees that were entered into with the debtor and any communication that you might have had with the debtor or their lawyers. It’s also a good idea to come prepared with a list of questions or concerns you might have.
Make use of speculative retainers
Most law firms can offer speculative retainers to appropriate clients. Ask your lawyer upfront if this is an option for you. The benefit will be that you will avoid disastrous legal costs in the event a judgment is made against you.
Have a plan
It’s easy to get caught up in the litigious process once it’s on foot and to lose track of what you actually want. Early on it’s best to take a step back and clarify what you want from the process in your own mind and to communicate that clearly with your lawyer.
At the beginning of the litigation process, one of the best ways to keep an eye on your costs throughout the process (and a good way to get a reality check about the real cost of litigation) is to ask your lawyer for a detailed costs estimate. Ask for an extensive costs estimate that breaks down each step into how long it will take and the costs involved and disbursements. If appropriate, your lawyer should be providing you with monthly reports that keep you in the loop of how much the litigation is costing you.
Make use of technology
If your lawyer is mindful of limiting your costs they will find innovative ways to get the best and most considered response out of you, for example, they will email you soft copies of chronologies they have prepared with questions included in them rather than asking for you to come in for conferences or expecting you to have lengthy teleconferences with them explaining issues that could be easily dealt within your own time and at your own pace.
Be open to settlement
Thousands of dollars of costs can be saved by making sure your emotions don’t get the better of you. Litigation can bring out the worst in people and it’s important to keep a level head and know when you cut your losses.