How to Lower Your Discovery Costs
By Megan Parlette
Discovery is one of the more expensive parts of a case. What exactly is discovery? This is the process through which we gather and exchange evidence with the opposing party and use it to build our case strategy. Therefore, it is a crucial part of your case. It is also a detailed and time-intensive process, which is why the costs are high. However, the importance of completing this process cannot be overstated – cases are won and lost through discovery. Here are some suggestions to get you through discovery without breaking the bank.
For any type of discovery request, it is important to read through the requests carefully and also to read the instructions that your legal team provides. Write down notes and any questions that you have, and then reach out to your legal assistant for help. Your legal assistant is your secret weapon to keeping costs down – they are knowledgeable and skilled at managing discovery requests, AND they bill at a much lower hourly rate than your attorney. We recommend setting a meeting with your legal assistant early on in the discovery process. Investing time early to clearly understand this process will save you time and money in the long run.
The two most common types of discovery requests that we get in family law cases are Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. Interrogatories are a list of numbered questions that must be answered in writing, and Requests for Production of Documents are a list of numbered document requests that require you to provide documents in response (copies of financial documents, correspondence, etc.).
TIPS FOR RESPONDING TO INTERROGATORIES
Type your answers in a word processor (Word, Google Docs, etc.), and email the file to your legal assistant. It’s much quicker for us to copy/paste your answers into our template than to type from handwritten notes.
Number your answers!
Provide complete answers to all parts of a question. Several of the interrogatories will have multiple parts – make sure your answer is thorough and complete. Otherwise, we’ll be asking you to redo it.
Be truthful! Your Answers to Interrogatories must be signed under oath. If there are discrepancies between answers, we are obligated to investigate, which increases your bill.
TIPS FOR RESPONDING TO A REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS
Keep it digital whenever possible! We run a paperless office, which means that all of our case files are electronic, and any paper we get needs to be scanned in and saved to the file. You will likely be producing hundreds or even thousands of pages of documents – you don’t want to pay your legal assistant to sit there and scan those in if you can help it.
Securely upload your documents through Clio Connect, your client portal. If you have any difficulty, ask your legal assistant for help.
Name files clearly and consistently. Let’s say you are downloading a bank statement from “ABC Bank” dated August 31, 2021 for your savings account (account #1234-1234-1234-1234).
Organize your documents by request number.
Example: If Request 1 is for all of your bank statements, the file name should begin with a “1”.
Include a descriptive title, and include the last 4 digits of the account number, if applicable.
Example: “ABC Bank Savings Acct x1234”
Include the date of the document whenever possible using the date format YYYYMMDD. This allows the files to be automatically sorted into chronological order.
Example: August 31, 2021 is written 20210831.
This bank statement file would be named “1-ABC Bank Savings x1234 20210831”.
Produce complete sets of documents.
First, when producing statements – provide EVERY page of the statement. Sending just Page 1 of a five-page bank statement is not acceptable. Sending a screenshot or photo of your current balance is not acceptable. We will make you resend it.
Second, download an entire set of statements at a time, save them in a folder, and send them to us all together. If you send incomplete sets, it takes us longer to review, look for the missing documents, and then reach out to you and find out why they’re missing.
If there’s a request for a document that doesn’t exist, let us know! For example, one request might be for any documents showing ownership of real property. If you don’t own any real property, tell us up front. That way, we won’t think it was missed by mistake and reach out to you about your non-existent property.
On the other hand, maybe the documents exist, but you don’t have immediate access to them. Let us know–we can give you clear instructions on how to obtain the documents and how to keep a record of your attempts.
In general, these tips can be boiled down to the common phrase, “Time is money.” The more time that your legal team spends on your discovery responses, the higher your bill will be. The more time that you spend to complete and organize your discovery responses before sending them to us, the less time that our team will need to spend on those same tasks, and the lower your bill will be. Also, remember to use your legal assistant! They can answer most of your discovery questions at much lower rates than your attorney. As always, Z Family Law is here to help. If you need assistance, contact our office today at (301) 388-5528.