Free Consultations in Divorce – Why We Don’t Offer Them
Free consultations in divorce: do they really exist? We receive many phone calls demanding “free consults”. Most people accept that lawyers charge a fee for their time. But often, my assistants will get withering comments from annoyed callers, such as, “Why should I pay for a consult when Joe Blow down the street give free consults?”, or “I will NEVER pay to speak with a lawyer! You guys are greedy!”
Here is why most family law firms, such as ours, do not offer free consultations in divorce:
Abraham Lincoln said, “A Lawyer’s Time is his stock in trade”. Our time is valuable to us.
When you hire our firm, you get our utmost dedication and commitment to your case. If we tie up all our time giving “free legal advice” to future clients, our current clients would suffer. Time is a limited commodity and our loyalty is to our current clients.
The State Bar, as well as all insurance carriers, advises against providing legal advice without a fee agreement (contract for services).
If I gave free legal advice, theoretically, I’d be sanctionable under the professional rules of conduct, and likely liable for insurance fraud.
Even if you don’t hire us, once I hear your side of the story, I can no longer represent your spouse because there is now a conflict of interest.
See California Rules of Professional Conduct 3-310. In fact, a common “dirty trick” is for one spouse to meet with all of the best divorce lawyers in town (with no intention of hiring them), sharing just enough juicy details to establish a attorney/client privilege, thus limiting their spouse’s options for representation. If I give 5 free consults, and none of them retain us, we have just lost 10 (not just 5) clients.
Divorce and custody laws and how they apply to YOU is case-specific.
It is impossible to properly analyze how the law applies to you unless I get a complete picture of your marriage – this takes at least one hour or more.
A consultation fee assesses how serious you are about hiring us.
It is also an honest declaration of our services and fees. We have no intention of wasting your time, or overselling our services if you simply cannot afford it. If you are looking for general information, you can browse our blog and website. I spend a lot of time on my blog, and I update it weekly. If you seek detailed legal advice, my staff will need to schedule a block of time for me to sit down with you.
What Can I Expect from my Paid Consultation?
Uninterrupted time with a Certified Family Law Specialist for an hour.
We will schedule a block of time to sit down with you and carefully listen to you. In addition, we will review your existing orders, agreements, and court documents. Family lawyers know the law, and can explain the legal issues to you, and go over how it may apply to you in your case. A divorce specialist will perform specific legal analysis based on the facts you have provided. We will develop a strategy to help you obtain information you need.
Detailed explanation of your rights in a divorce.
We will go over your options for child custody and visitation, and calculate child and spousal support for you. After reviewing the facts of your case, we will inventory your assets and explain characterization and division of assets. If there are any reimbursement rights, we will explain those. We will assess if you need to hire other experts, such as forensic accountants, vocational evaluators, and/or child custody evaluators. We will explain the pros and cons of hiring these experts, and do a detailed cost-benefit analysis.
Explore options for handling your divorce.
When you are going through a divorce, you have several options. Litigation is not the only choice. Even if the other side has “lawyered up”, you do not necessarily need an attorney. There is mediation, collaborative law, consulting attorney, and limited scope representation. We will go over all of your options and explain costs to find the most cost-effective method to handle you divorce. It is not unusual for us to advise a client during an initial consultation that our services are actually not needed. I regularly offer alternatives that benefit only you (and not us), such as referring you or helping you behind the scenes in a mediation.
A Paid Consult Avoids These Time-Wasters
Useless information that can be found on the internet.
These days, anyone can search for answers on the internet. We will not waste your time giving you general information you can find on our website.
Hard sales tactics.
Divorce lawyers are hungry. Many will sell you services you don’t need. Still others may manipulate your anger and paranoia, creating conflict just to make as much money as possible because “free legal advice” does not pay their bills.
Inexperienced or unscrupulous lawyers.
In a divorce, your assets are at issue. You want a lawyer who understands money. If they are doing free work, they do not understand money. If they can’t budget for themselves, they certainly cannot advocate on your behalf for an equal/fair division of assets. Be wary of “cheap” lawyers who will accept $2500 or 3500 for your case when your case is replete with complex issues. The initial retainer does not fund the entire case, and many times, these lawyers enter a case with no long-term commitment to you. In fact, their limited involvement can harm you in the long run. Pay a cheap roofer to for a “cheap patch job”, and your roof will collapse in the next rainstorm. When you finally pay a professional roofer, they will charge you more than they would have originally charged you, just to undo the damage from a cheap patch job. You get what you pay for.
Most all of the lawyers who offer “Free consults” are not giving you “legal advice.”
There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there are no free consultations in divorce. Giving legal advice jeopardizes the lawyer, potentially risking themselves of malpractice claims by creating an attorney-client relationship. A good lawyer would not expose themselves to liability by giving random legal advice for free. They are rather engaging in hard sales tactics, selling you on their services. This is a waste of both of your time.
You Get What You Pay For
All of my clients who paid for our consultation after having “free consults” elsewhere have said to me, “You really do get what you pay for out there.” In my experience, a thorough initial consultation lasts at least 1 hour. If a firm or lawyer is willing to commit several hours delivering “free legal advice”, they must be lacking clients or experience.
Remember, a lawyer’s time is his stock. Reputable and experienced lawyers charge for their time in return for valuable knowledge and expertise. And there is a comfort in knowing that you are getting what you paid for.
Please note the above applies only to legal advice consults. If you and your spouse want to mediate your case, our firm offers a complimentary 15 minute Mediation Orientation. Please see our Mediation FAQ’s.