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.