We all hope to have clients who can easily pay all the fees and costs associated with a collaborative case. In those instances where income or resources are tight there are options to consider which will allow those individuals to still participate in the collaborative process.
Start by looking at each party’s income. In many cases when your client does not have sufficient income the other party does. Even when the parties do not earn adequate income from employment, they may have assistance from family or friends available to them. Always discuss establishing a budget with your client during your initial consultation and plan to make it an agenda item at the first meeting. Determine what expenses may be able to be reduced or eliminated. The parties working together to make a realistic budget is always a number one priority throughout the process.
Determining a realistic total cost to get through the process is always important, especially when the parties’ cash flow is limited, or they are short on liquid assets. Consider retaining a neutral MHP and/or FP who has a lower hour rate. Be sure to discuss with your third-party neutrals any concerns that may exist regarding the cost of the case. Always remember to utilize your MHP and FP to work with the parties offline as much as possible at their lower hourly rate. If you do not need an FP due to the issues in the case, do not retain one. Or if you are not discussing financial issues during a particular meeting do not have them sit in during that particular meeting.
Although MHPs are invaluable during the process it may be prudent to consider having the attorneys run the meetings if you feel the parties will not require the additional assistance of a mental health professional. This is especially true if the issues involved are strictly financial and the parties are able to effectively communicate with each other.
Ask a paralegal or associate who works at a lower hourly rate to assist in doing preliminary work with the client or in gathering information that you would ordinarily do yourself. Encourage your client to use these individuals throughout the case. Any work that you can have your client handle, such as fact or document gathering, will generally cut down on the fees and costs. Work with the other counsel and third-party neutrals to find other innovative ways to save the parties’ resources.
Knowing the parties’ personalities, communication skills, and financial resources will help guide on how to approach the case from a budgeting point of view. Always look to find ways to maximize the resources that are available to you and the clients.