To Free or Not to Free Consultations

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

The vast majority of lawyers offer free consultations or evaluations to prospective clients. Others charge for first consultations, depending on the type of case. If you are considering switching to a different method, or feel uncomfortable one way or another, here are a few things to consider.

Do your potential clients show up? Some attorneys charge for initial consultations, in part, to ensure the potential client actually shows up. If something is free, some people do not take it as seriously.

Will you refund the money if you cannot help? If you charge for all consultations, but a potential client comes in with a case that you realize you cannot handle in the first 30 seconds, are you willing to refund their money? That certainly seems to be the fair thing to do.

Are you actually providing your clients with legal advice? Charging for a consultation that consists of what your fee structure is just seems wrong. But reviewing documents, offering advice, and preparing the client to handle the next step on their own seems fair. In part, the fee is to hold that time for the client. But when they leave, do you feel like you have provided them with value? If the answer is no, maybe you should not be charging.

(photo: DavidDMuir)

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  • Vivian Rodriguez

    There is a difference between seeing a lawyer for information and getting an advice on a specific situation.

    Do your potential clients show up? I am comfortable stating that the majority of people who have nothing invested will not even give you the courtesy of calling to cancel.

    Will you refund the money if you cannot help? This has more to do with not qualifying the caller. A few questions up front before making the appointment takes care of this. No one, including the prospective client, wastes their time. And it’s easy to make a referral to someone who can help them.

    Are you actually providing your clients with legal advice? With the availability of online information, there is only one reason to meet a prospective client: provide advice.

    There are always going to be people who don’t show up, pay late once they become clients, etc. But I think the bottom line is we lawyers get what we deserve when people just expect to get something for nothing–namely a lot of wasted time. Information on the law is freely available; what to do with it to get a solution is what we get trained on and what we charge for.