Free Consultations in Divorce – Why We Don’t Offer Them
We receive many phone calls inquiring about “free consults”. Most people accept that lawyers charge a fee for their time. But some times, my assistants will get withering comments from callers, such as, “Why should I pay for a consult when Joe Blow and Jill Blow down the street give free consults?”
Here is why most family law firms, such as ours, charge a consult fee.
- 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.
- Even if you don’t hire us, once I hear your side of the story, I can no longer represent your spouse because there is now a conflict of interest.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 3 free consults, and none of them retain us, we have just lost 6 (not 3) clients.
- 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. If you seek detailed legal advice, I will need to schedule a block of time 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. We review your existing orders, agreements, and court documents.
- 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. We will inventory your assets and explain characterization and division of assets. We will also explain if there are any reimbursement rights. 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 option. Even if the other side has “lawyered up”, you do not necessarily need an attorney. There is mediation, collaborative law, mediation and consulting attorney, limited scope representation option. 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 don’t benefit us at all, such as referring you or helping you behind the scenes in a mediation.
A Paid Consult Avoids These Time-Wasters
1. 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.
2. 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.
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 lacking 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 30-minute Mediation Orientation. Please see our Mediation FAQ’s.