Time for some brutal honesty in the hot topic issue of free consultations in divorce and family law cases.
I will start off by saying I do not offer free consultations for divorce and family law cases and the reasons why I will explain below.
First and foremost, free consultations are sometimes used by potential clients as a way to “opt out” or “conflict out” an attorney.
For example, I’ve been in the situation where I get a phone call and the person starts asking endless questions about a “divorce case.” I refuse to answer them on the phone, but I do get a call five minutes later from my actual client asking what I just told their spouse.
“Huh? Who is your spouse,” I ask? A client will respond “the guy you just spoke to. He said that you said this or that.”
First and foremost, that’s a lie. I didn’t saying anything and that is the reason 99.99% of attorneys do not answer questions over the phone. We have no idea who we are talking to! I know clients like to say it is just one question, but that one question opens the door to major liability issues for the law firm.
The flip side of that is do you know who you were talking to? It could be anybody!
Besides, let me answer a question with a question. Would you call a mechanic and say my car is acting up. What’s wrong with it and how much to fix it? Would you call your doctor and ask my shoulder is bothering me. How much to make me feel better? Of course not.
If your doctor answered that question, malpractice was just committed and for the attorney as well. You imagine a lawyer facing liability issues for answering a few questions over the phone and not even getting paid for it, just because the spouse on the other side was playing dirty?
Fact is, a consultation is a legal x-ray. It’s how an attorney can figure out the ins and out of your case and it is wrong to make a conclusion with partial facts.
The other issue is that a free consultation usually results in clients meeting with every attorney in town just to get a quote. Clients who do this aren’t concerned with experience or the capabilities of the attorney, just the bottom line price. You wouldn’t do that with your doctor would you?
In addition to that, there is the client who in reality has no intention of getting divorced. It reminds me of people that go to the mall every couple of months to get free makeup samples.
Over and over again, I’ve also seen the situation where a potential client had an argument the night before with their spouse and is now considering divorce.
That’s an emotional response because divorce is not based on an argument, but an accumulation of issues over a period of time and by then, divorce is something that has been discussed between spouses, whether they agree or not. Clients will say I just want to be “prepared.” Prepared for what? Nothing has happened.
That’s like saying to an oncologist I don’t have cancer, but I want to meet with you to be prepared just in case I do get cancer. If that makes sense, then you might as well make appointments with employment attorneys, worker’s comp. attorneys, personal injury attorneys, bankruptcy attorneys, I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Free consultations also results in clients telling you upfront, “I cannot afford a lawyer, but your consultations are free, so here I am.” While I appreciate the honesty, that’s not fair to the attorney or anyone else.
I once explained to a paralegal that is comparable to going to a car dealership and saying: “I cannot afford a car. I don’t have money for a deposit, and my credit is bad. But, I would like to test drive that car over there.” Realistically, the car salesman is calling security at that point.
Free Consultations Are a Gimmick
Yes, free consultations are nothing more than a gimmick. No one likes to work for free and lawyers are no different.
Lawyers play the numbers game: for x amount of clients that see me, x amount will hire me. That is true, but it is a low percentage, if not, every free consultation would result in a client signing up and that is not the case.
In addition, most of the time with free consultations, you won’t even see the attorney, but the paralegal. A big no-no on behalf of both the paralegal and the lawyer.
The other issue is ask around or see reviews online for any lawyer, even if in another town. You will see how people complain the lawyer was trying to speed up the consultation and was quoting the potential client early on in the consultation just to end it.
That happens for the simple reason that the lawyer is trying to filter out those that will retain their services. It’s no different at a car dealership. These attorneys have several clients waiting outside and need to move quickly. Personally, I schedule every appointment an hour apart.
The other gimmick is a lawyer will not charge for the first 15 minutes. Common sense will suffice here. I guarantee you the entire consultation will not end in less than 15 minutes.
Family Court in Clay County has what is called the low bono program where you can consult with a private attorney at a $1 per minute, 30 minute minimum, 60 minutes maximum, and payments are in cash only. Think about that. This is the county offering reduced fee services, yet, they are still charging for the services and actually charging more than I do.
So, now that I have been brutally honest, and trust me, a lawyer should tell you all the good and bad, too many lawyers want to placate potential clients and tell clients want they want to hear. You want your doctor to be honest or tell you what you want to hear?
With that, I will say that at the moment, I do charge $50 for my consultation that I apply as a credit towards your case when you are ready to start.
Why $50? Experience has taught me it doesn’t really matter what I charge, it could be lower or higher, and I still have the same percentage of clients that will or will not make an appointment. But, I believe $50 is fair for all parties involved and again, it is even cheaper than the low-bono program in Clay County. And I won’t even get into the issue of potential of clients worth millions of dollars looking for a free consultation.
And one more thing, you pay for monthly health insurance and yet, when you visit your doctor, you still need to pay a fee. The same applies to legal insurance. Not even your local mall will do a free makeover unless there is a minimum purchase.
Representing clients in the areas of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Family Law/Divorce, and car and motorcycle accidents for 20 years.
(904) 712-5565 or (305)-688-LAWS (5297).
*Se Habla Español