It’s rare these days to hear anyone talk about lawyers without mentioning the high price tag that often goes along with them. While the billing and payment requirements for law firms may vary, if you do some research you will find that many attorneys provide free initial consultations for prospective clients. A free consultation is a “priceless” opportunity to find out if your case qualifies for legal assistance and what steps you would need to take if you do ultimately decide to take legal action on your issue.
The legal world can be very confusing to those who find themselves in need of attorney services. The average person will have many questions that need to be answered before even hiring an attorney. Do I need a lawyer? What kind of case do I have? Will I have to go to court? And most of all, how much is this all going to cost?
Some legal services cost more than others. Family law services can be expensive because the attorneys often work on a traditional pay-per-hour basis to the tune of $200 or more per hour. Personal injury services on the other hand can often be pursued with no out-of-pocket cost because the attorney gets paid only a portion of the money she recovers for you in your law suit. Some law firms now provide flat fees for routine legal services. Regardless of what kind of legal issues you face, you can get your initial questions answered and obtain a better understanding of your case if you take advantage of a free legal consultation.
Why do lawyers provide free consultations?
You might have heard the expression, free advice is worth what you pay for it, but that is not true when it comes to getting a free legal consultation from a licensed attorney. You might wonder, if lawyers charge so much, why are they willing to give me a free consultation? Lawyers provide free legal consultations for a lot of reasons, but here are the top 3:
• Reason #1: They want your business. A law firm provides services to the public just like a restaurant does. Although they might be selling divorces instead of pizzas, they still need to be competitive in the market.
• Reason #2: They need to evaluate your case to find out if you qualify for their services. An experienced attorney can quickly tell if your case is worth anything and whether you meet the requirements for certain legal actions.
• Reason #3: They need to find out if they have a conflict with you. Ethical rules in all jurisdictions prevent attorneys from taking any adverse action against a previous client. It will be a waste of time and an ethical problem if you pay to get your case started and the law firm finds out they represented your soon-to-be ex-husband in his car accident.
How do I find a free consultation?
Look in the phone book! Remember phone books? Well, businesses, including law firms, still advertise in them. Look for ads that have the words “free initial interview,” “no charge for initial consultation,” “free consultation,” or “free initial consultation.”
If the only law firm advertising a free initial consultation is not located near you, choose a law firm in a better location that you think you might be interested in working with and call and ask them if they will do a free initial consultation with you. Many law firms do provide free consultations for people who call and ask about them even if they don’t specifically advertise that service in their print and web ads. Don’t sweat it if they say no to a free consultation. Just say “thank you” and move on to the next law firm.
Of course, don’t forget to look on the web. Many law firms have websites that will include information about whether the firm will provide a free initial consultation. Use your favorite search engine to search for key words like “attorney free consultation” and include the state where you live. You might not limit yourself to your city as many law firms provide services in a range of areas in any given state.
How should I prepare for my consultation?
A free initial consultation might happen on the phone, in person or by email. For any of these three potential meeting types, you should have some information prepared for your consulting attorney. It is impossible to know exactly what the attorney is going to ask you during the consultation, but it’s a smart idea to prepare what you can.
Tip #1 First, have a general timeline of your case prepared. What month and year did you and your wife separate? What medical emergency first caused you to get behind on your bills and when? Pin pointing the first stage of your legal problem can help put the whole situation in context for your attorney. Be sure to include only the main points in your timeline. Include any legal papers that you have been served or have filed. The consulting attorney will ask you for more details that he or she thinks are important.
Tip #2 Second, be sure to let the attorney know whether you’ve been involved in a similar case before, especially if it involves the same people. Usually a person can only file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy once every 7 years. In a family law matter, it can affect your case if you’ve filed to modify your custody case within the last couple of years. The attorney can tell you for sure whether these types of issues will affect your case or not.
Tip #3 Third, make sure you’ve written out your questions. Your attorney will have a lot of questions for you about your case. With all the information you’re providing it can be easy to forget what questions you wanted to ask about your case. Even if your consulting attorney can’t ultimately take your case, you’ll benefit by getting those questions answered by an expert for free.
Tip #4 Finally, have a pen and paper on hand! This is a simple step, but you’d be surprised how many people are unprepared to even jot down phone numbers. If the attorney with whom you’ve consulted cannot help you, he might provide you with the phone number of an attorney who he thinks can help you. Or, he might give you a list of paperwork you need to bring to your next meeting. Be ready to take down the information.