I offer free initial consultations to prospective clients, but the free consult is not a universal practice. I know of many well-respected, successful lawyers who do not offer free consultations. There are benefits to each approach.
– No risk. Clients can learn about their debt-relief options without committing to hiring me. Many people would rather get familiar with the process and the attorney before deciding which lawyer to hire. It’s sort of like test driving a few cars for free before deciding which one you want to buy.
– Attacking the problem sooner. Many of my clients have struggled with their debt problems for months or years before finally seeking my help. Free consultations make it easier for people to get the help they need sooner.
– More clients. Free consultations may get more potential clients to schedule appointments while billing for initial consultations may drive away those potential clients. Some people will not consider seeing a lawyer who does not offer free consults.
– Fewer no-shows. In general, people do not value items and services they get for free. When they know they will pay for my time, even if they skip the scheduled appointment, clients will make an extra effort to show up. My own (very unscientific) research indicates that attorneys who offer free consultations are much more likely to have clients skip appointments than those who bill for initial consults.
– Efficiency. If a client takes advantage of a free consultation with me but doesn’t hire me, I’ve essentially worked for free. I could have scheduled a paying client for that appointment time or done some work for one of my existing clients.
– Better-informed clients. If a client is willing to pay for an hour of my time to hear my opinion of their financial situation, I know that price wasn’t the sole criterion for hiring a lawyer. These people have typically done some reading about bankruptcy and researched different lawyers before deciding to call me. They know that cost is only one thing to consider when hiring someone for something as important as a bankruptcy filing.
In the end, I decided to offer free initial consultations. But I can understand the reasoning of attorneys who choose differently. Under different circumstances, I may have made a different decision. For now, I don’t get many no-shows, most of my initial consults end up hiring me, and I believe my clients appreciate the risk-free opportunity to learn about their debt-relief options.
I’d be interested to read your ideas on the free vs. billed consultation debate in the comments below.
Bankruptcy attorneys from around the country are taking part in this “Bankruptcy Alphabet” exercise. Please take a few minutes to check out these other blog posts on the letter “F.”
Bankruptcy Attorney Fees – by Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney Kurt OKeefe
Failure Begets Success – by Philadelphia Suburban Bankruptcy Lawyer, Chris Carr
Family Farmer/Fisherman – by Omaha/Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell
Fear – by Lakewood, CA Bankruptcy Attorney, Christine A. Wilton
Fees – by Birmingham Bankruptcy Attorney, Elizabeth Johnson
Filing Requirements – by Miami Bankruptcy Attorney, Dorota Trzeciecka
Financial Fatigue – by Cleveland Area Bankruptcy Lawyer, Bill Balena
First – by Northern California Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran
Five Tips for a Successful Bankruptcy – by St. Louis, Missouri Attorney, Nancy Stokley Martin
Foreclosure – by Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Attorney Bob Doig
Foreclosure – by Kauai Bankruptcy Attorney, Stuart Ing
Foreclosure – by Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney, Monica D. Shepard
Forgiveness of Debt – by Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney, Mark J. Markus
Form 1099-C – by Pittsburgh Bankruptcy Attorney, Shawn Wright
Forms – by Jacksonville, Florida Bankruptcy Attorney, J. Dinkins G. Grange
Fraud – by Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney, Kim Coleman
Fraudulent Transfer – by Downriver, Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Christopher McAvoy
Fraudulent Transfer – by San Francisco Bankruptcy Attorney, Jeena Cho
Free Consultation – by Livonia, Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Peter Behrmann
Free Credit Report – by Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney, J. Dinkins G. Grange
Fresh Start – by Marin County Bankruptcy Attorney, Catherine Eranthe
Fresh Start – by Metro Richmond Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein
Fresh Start – by Daniel J. Winter, Chicago Bankruptcy Lawyer
Future Flow Agreement – by New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman
Pigs Get Fat, Hogs Get Slaughtered – by Houston Bankruptcy Attorneys, Busby & Associates
Image credit: TooFarNorth/flickr
I think the same applies to freelance writing. I’ve been in business for three years now and, in the beginning, offered free consultations to get people in the door and build up my resume. Now that I have a good client base, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of during the consult (i.e. working for free) and am strongly considering getting rid of my “free consultation” offer.
Thanks for reading! Free consults are a more complicated issue than most people think. Good luck!