What is a “Free Initial Consultation”?
Many lawyers provide free initial consultations as one way to obtain additional clients. Typically, the time spent with a potential new client in a free initial consultation is approximately twenty minutes.
The following are examples of why both the potential client and the attorney find the free initial consultation beneficial:
- An opportunity for the potential client to learn if an attorney is needed. During the free initial consultation, it is determined that an attorney is not needed. A creditor has threatened to file suit against the potential client but the creditor has mistakenly identified the potential new client. A letter from the potential client communicating that the creditor is mistaken is all that is needed; or the statute of limitations has run and the creditor is barred from recovery.
- An opportunity for the potential client to obtain an overview of his/her needs and of possible options as to how to proceed. Options: Each legal matter often has many options. Pointing out the options and associated costs may help the potential client to evaluate those options by looking at the pros and cons of each. In family law matters, many potential clients want an annulment when a property settlement agreement may be a more cost-effective and efficient option.
- An opportunity for the potential client to become familiar with the attorney’s skills, including but not limited to listening skills and communication skills. Selection: The attorney’s skills become apparent to the potential client through the free initial consultation.
- An opportunity for the potential client to feel comfortable with the attorney and to foresee developing a trusting relationship. During the free initial consultation, the potential client often is able to obtain a sense of whether the attorney is sincere and to determine whether it will be possible to develop a rapport with the attorney that will lead to a successful, trusting working relationship.
- An opportunity to obtain all of the above objectives at no cost. Obtaining the above objectives and at no cost to the potential client benefits both that client and the attorney as the potential client is obtaining valuable information about the attorney and, in some instances about the case, without paying a fee and the attorney is afforded the opportunity to obtain a new client.
There are times when a free initial consultation may not be appropriate. Some examples are:
- The complexity of the case requires substantial investigation, i.e., many hours in research and investigation;
- The potential client has many records that need to be reviewed and a substantial investment of time would be required on the part of the attorney before any opinions or options could be shared with the potential client.
- The potential client has represented himself or herself, resulting in the loss of important rights. The court rules required the potential client to seek a countersuit, discovery, or a response such as an answer or other affirmative relief and those rights have been lost.
- The potential client has been sued and there is a very short time to respond.
- The potential client expects the free initial consultation to last longer than twenty minutes.
There are remedies for the above instances where a free initial consultation is inappropriate. For instance, during the first call of the potential client to the attorney, the attorney can best explain to the caller why a free initial consultation in his or her situation would be inappropriate. Also during the first call to his office, the attorney may listen to the potential client’s need and, if the circumstances warrant, recommend that the potential client come in and discuss the case on an hourly basis or come meet with the attorney for a brief free initial consultation followed by retaining the attorney for a more responsive effort on a flat fee or hourly basis.
We encourage potential clients to read our articles on our website that relate to their legal need. Under the Practice Area—Family Law, we have an article entitled “First Meeting with your Lawyer for a Divorce-What to Bring”. Under the Practice Area-Wills and Estates, we have an article entitled “How to Prepare for a Meeting with a Lawyer to Draft a Will”. The benefits of coming to a free initial consultation are many and bringing the information, or similar information, with you as described in those two articles can help both parties be ready to focus on important issues during the consultation.
Fred Antenberg has over 30 years’ experience in providing Free Initial Consultations to potential new clients in Howard County and the surrounding counties of Central Maryland and Baltimore. Those Free Initial Consultations have led to benefits for his new clients as well as for himself. Call Fred today for a Free Initial Consultation at 410-730-4404.