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.
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.
Another option is what we do: we take your story ahead of time (!) in the form of documents, email, faxes, a letter, etc., have the intake form completed in advance, and spend most of the full hour giving YOU real advice that you can use now. Yes, the consultation costs, but you get what you pay for.
Which would you choose?