The use of letters and negotiation solves many disputes without the need of an attorney. Arbitration or mediation may also be used. There are legal self-help manuals and conferences that can aid in resolving disputes.
Idea: Instead of hiring an attorney to fully represent you, only use them for paper review or advice.
Negotiation without a lawyer: This can resolve many small disputes. Many books cover the process of negotiation.
Idea: Make sure to learn about the legal issues that could be brought up before the negotiation by speaking with a legal hot line or consulting resource.
Mediation or arbitration: You can find dispute resolution centers in almost every state. The areas that they commonly focus on are complaints from consumers, rental property disputes, and arguments between neighbors or members of a family.
Mediation consists of a third party who helps the two parties talk about the problems and hopefully reach an agreement. Arbitration is a more formal process where a third party reaches a conclusion after hearing both sides.
These are the low cost options in comparison to going to court or hiring a lawyer for representation.
Small claims court: Each state defines the limits for the amount of damages, which can be filed in small claims court. These are less formal and require less paperwork than normal courts. You must be prepared to function as your own lawyer in small claims court, which involves compiling evidence, investigating the law and making your story known in court.