I came across an article recently that purported to give advice on how to select a divorce attorney. One of the bits of advice was that most “reputable” attorneys will offer a free consultation. I was stunned to hear this, as I think the precise opposite! The free consultation from the divorce attorney is a loss leader, which means that it’s free because the attorney is looking for the potential client to pay the big bucks at the end of the consultation. In addition, the attorney doesn’t offer anything of value to the potential client during the free consultation, so why would it cost anything?!
Remember, you get what you pay for!
Many attorneys offer a free or reduced-cost consultation and the appointment goes like this: the potential client arrives and fills out some paperwork, finishing after about 10-15 minutes. Then s/he waits another 5-10 minutes, so the actual appointment starts at least 15 minutes into the alloted “hour.” The attorney, naturally, want to know what’s going on, so the potential client spends at least 20-30 minutes – often this is closer to 45 minutes – telling their “story” to the attorney. So, at this point, it’s been 45 minutes to an hour, and the attorney has yet to *do* anything but sit and listen. At the end of the consultation, the attorney says, well, yes. I can help you with that. And the retainer will be $10,000. Or $5,000. Or $20,000. So the potential client has paid nothing to get nothing but a very high retainer quote, and the client has (unless s/he has the money) wasted an hour or so of time.
Is that worth it? Are these the practices of a “reputable” attorney?
A paid consultation can be more worthwhile, as they tend to be a little longer and involve more attorney advice and counsel. Often, the intake sheet is sent in advance, and the “hour” spent is really an hour – hopefully, an hour spent gathering real, useful, and practice advice that the individual can use.
We like to do things a little differently, and our goal is to give you as much information as we can in our one-hour consultation. We invite you to tell us your story ahead of time in the form of documents, email, faxes, a letter, etc., we have you prepare our intake form in advance, and we spend most of the full hour with you, giving YOU real advice that you can use now. By the time we’ve met, we are already up to speed on your situation & have reviewed your most pressing questions, so we can get down to the business of not only helping, but planning the strategy for your next steps, whether you decide to continue working with us or not. We want and expect you to come out of the consultation armed with tons of information you can use immediately. Yes, the consultation costs, but you get what you pay for.
Which would you choose?