The Power of a Free Legal Consultation: Why You Should Never Pay for a First Meeting


Area of Law: 

Attorneys don’t come cheap – at least the good ones don’t.  Once your legal proceedings get under way, you know that you’ll be compensating your legal team for every second they work on your case.


What you shouldn’t be paying for is the initial consultation, which may not even lead to you hiring them.


Your first meeting with an attorney is like a first date or an interview – both parties try to get to know what the other is looking for to see if it’s a good fit.  And, just like with dates and interviews, money should not exchange hands. 


When a situation arises in which you need legal counsel, you should feel free to shop around in order to find the best possible attorney for you and your unique situation.  It’s absolutely acceptable to take free consultations with more than one firm, and here’s why…


1. Feel it Out


Depending on your circumstances, you could end up spending a good amount of time in your attorney’s company.  And, you may end up sharing very personal information about your life.  The client-attorney relationship is professional…but it’s also one that tends to get pretty personal.


Liking your legal counsel is certainly not a requirement for a successful outcome, but it can’t hurt.  Think about the differences in your behavior and mind-set around various people in your life.  It’s probably true that you’re more honest, comfortable and productive with the people whom you personally like and respect.


I’m not recommending that you spend these precious, free moments chatting about hobbies and favorite movies.  I just mean that, while discussing your legal needs, be sure to pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings about each potential attorney.  Size them up and trust your gut.


2.  Game Plan


After initial introductions and niceties, get right down to business.  Free consultations usually have strict time limits and you want to make sure to get the most out of the time you have.


You should be fully prepared with all paperwork and details about your case.  You may even want to rehearse a concise, yet complete, summary of the most important information.  Remember:  the point of this meeting is to find out what the attorney can do for you, not for you to give a play-by-play of every event related to the case.


If you’ve prepared well, you’ll spend more time listening than talking.  This is your chance to get an idea of how each lawyer will approach your case.  Now, don’t expect to get a ton of free legal advice here, but you should walk away knowing what to expect from each firm.  


 3. How Much?


Get down to brass tacks:  legal fees.  This is definitely an important part of your consultation.  Assuming that you’re not a money tree farmer, cost is probably a concern when it comes to hiring a legal team.


Finding out their hourly fee is not enough information.  Dig deeper to get an overall projection of what you can expect to pay once all is said and done.  Although attorneys don’t possess psychic powers that allow them to see into the future to give you an exact figure, they should be able to give you an estimate of man hours for your particular needs.


 4. Compare


Before starting off on your tour of free consolations, think about making yourself a spreadsheet that includes each attorney’s name as well as a few important categories you’ll use to assess each one.  Then, use that spreadsheet to take notes during and after each meeting.


This way, once you’ve met the various firms, you’ll have a cheat sheet to use to compare them to one another.  You’ll be able to see their pros and cons at a glance.  Though cost is obviously a factor in your decision, avoid making a choice driven solely by affordability. Try to come up with an overall assessment of each lawyer by considering all of the important aspects of their practice.


If a legal firm wants to charge you for an initial consultation, this should be your first red flag.  Good firms understand that the meeting is as much for the client to interview the attorney as vice versa. 


You have a plethora of choices when it comes to hiring a lawyer, and one that wants your business won’t charge for the opportunity to try to get it.


Author Bio:  Evan Sauer is a Chicago business attorney at Reda & Des Jardins, a forward-thinking, technologically savvy law firm providing top-notch legal services to clients ranging from startups to large companies in a variety of industries.  R&D’s practice areas include real estate services, business services, estate planning, and litigation. Learn more at Reda & Des Jardins and find us on Google+ today!