When higher interest rates translate into slower collections and pricier loans, business owners need to look for other ways to protect their cash flow. For manycompanies it's fruitful to make sure that legal expenses aren't padded.

Lynda Graham Mays, president of Ogilvy Management Services, a consulting firm in Longwood, Fla., says that companies should insist that each billspecify the start and end dates for itemized services. "Without that information, it's very difficult to audit and to control the cost of any particular legalproject," she says.

Ask the firm to identify every person mentioned on your bill, which will help ensure that you're not being billed for dinners that could have beencovered more cheaply in 15-minute phone calls. "Companies that take control of their legal relationship by requiring more of this kind of information forcelaw firms to be more accountable," says Mays.

And try to negotiate a money-back guarantee, meaning "the right to audit any bill for up to six months," adds Mays. She recommends you get a writtenguarantee that your law firm will return all fees that you can prove were unnecessary or excessive.