You probably reached this blog because you're looking for free consultations. You probably ask yourself the question why should I pay for a consultation when I can go down the street and get one for free. Recently, I made a decision to offer only paid consultations and I will explain why.

New Mexico Attorney providing Family Law consultation.

When you have a legal problem or question and you are looking for legal advice and you call around looking for a free consultation, you probably will find an attorney that will offer you one. But they're not going to give you a free consultation - what they will be giving you is a case evaluation. What that case evaluation will do is they will listen to you make a determination of whether or not they can help you and then explain the cost to retain. That is what I used to do with my case consultations were essentially a case evaluation. Free consultations do not provide legal advice. There are many reasons paid consultations provide more value to the process, but these most important reasons:

  1. To eliminate price shoppers. Not everyone can afford a full representation attorney. For example if you have a complex highly contested divorce and you want the help of an attorney it will be expensive. Now some attorneys will offer a free consultation to get you into the door even once they've learned that it's a complex divorce quote you a retainer fee, however, if they put you a $5,000 retainer and you can't afford it that attorney has essentially not only wasted your time, but also their time as well. There is an unrealistic expectation that a free consultation is equal to a free attorney and that isn't the case. Well not necessarily a free attorney but an inexpensive one. I would rather know and I would want my clients to know that this is going to be expensive up front. My goal isn't to take your last dollar but to provide you some value in your case. Now your case might become very contested and if you want to bring out all stops in your case and you want to be as aggressive as possible that takes time and it takes money. Those are decisions that the attorneys are not involved in , those are your decisions. You need to understand that pursuing a divorce especially a contested divorce can be expensive. Sometimes you don't get the full understanding of that through a free consultation. When attorneys charge a nominal consultation fee it shows two things: one, the client is serious about finding a legal situation that meets their ability to pay for the Attorney Services. There is an abundance of information on the internet for legal services that just by simply Googling your legal issue you can get a lot of good information about your case. Many will be able to find they can navigate their divorce case themselves. Others may decide that they need the help of an attorney but we'll find ways to come up with the money to sustain themselves throughout the divorce process. Paying a consultation fee will eliminate many aspects of anxiety if you can afford an attorney and if the attorney can afford working with you.
  2. In order for an attorney to offer legal advice you have to be a client. Now you could be a client on a very limited basis but usually that agreement has two things: One, that the representation is limited to what you're going to pay for. Now it's a common practice for attorneys to enter into these limited agreements because most attorneys have malpractice insurance which are based on  insurance applications that require attorneys to only provide legal advice to their clients. This not only limits what attorneys can say in a free consultation but also the type of advice if they can provide regarding your case. An attorney puts his credibility on the line when they provide you legal advice. And that legal advice is covered by the malpractice carrier. The malpractice carrier provides protection for the attorney as it relates to their clients. Attorneys don't want to be sued for malpractice for giving legal advice especially if they gave advice to a non client who hasn't even paid them for their services. This is probably the number one reason why when we offer free consultations we never give legal advice. Potential consults get upset and they written bad reviews because we won't give legal advice but they don't understand that it's not as simple as a quick question is more complex. If we gave you legal advice and you acted on it and then turn around and sued us for that advice my malpractice carrier would not cover me for those activities. So yes and attorney is at risk when providing advice,.
  3.  The next issue regarding free consultations is oftentimes as a strategy the other spouse will do as many consultations with other attorneys to create a conflict where the attorney that they spoke to during their free consultation can't talk to the other spouse. That hurts the potential attorney because if the person who conducted the free consult decides not to retain well one that attorney loses that potential client and they lose the other side of the divorce as well because it would be conflicted, so for doing one consultation with someone who doesn't retain the firm loses a total of 2 consultations. Those odds don't create fairness n for the attorney who feels like they are doing the right thing by offering a free consultation but what that attorney really is doing is limiting their ability to help people. Charging a consultation fee limits a person's ability to shop around just for the sake preventing the other spouse from retaining quality representation.
  4.  Attorneys value their time and they value their education as well. Attorneys spend the best post High School 7 years of their life attempting to obtain a law degree. That law degree comes with a price and great personal sacrifice. Most attorneys work by what is called the billable hour, so that makes our time valuable. When an attorney offers free consultations, they are not working on cases in which they are getting paid on. Now that is a choice that attorneys made when they decide to give free consultations. I'm not sure if potential consults recognize that a free console has a value assigned to it. I'm sure this is why you don't see attorneys who charged $400 give free consultations. Even attorneys that charge $200 an hour are hesitant to give free consultation because again they are losing out on working with paying clients who are paying them hourly fees. Now we all make choices about the careers that we pursue but understand that for attorneys our time is your most valuable asset. Just like you exchange hours of work for pay and you wouldn't go into work and offer free services for the person that you work for and their customers. Attorneys as well should be valued for their time and compensated as well.
  5. There are alternatives if clients cannot pay for a typical full representation retainer. When an attorney ask for a consultation fee instead of you investing a large amount of money in your case, you still have a strategy session with an attorney for 30 minutes or an hour who can provide legal advice then you can make an informed decision about how to proceed and it was within your price range, just like I stated earlier. You may only want an attorney to draft the document or to write a letter to the opposing party or maybe you would want the attorney to go to a hearing and that is all you want them to do. You can find ways to limit your cost and you may not know that without a consultation with an attorney. If you get a free consultation that attorney may not be able to tell you how they can help you or how they can just draft a letter or attend the hearing or do other limited work on your behalf. I like to use the  paid strategy sessions as a way to tell my client everything that they want to know about their case and how they can help themselves if they decide that they can't afford an attorney. 

There are many resources on the internet that might be able to help you in your case. Before calling around looking for a consultation you should review that information on the internet from multiple sources to see if you need the assistance of an attorney before proceeding in your case. You should expect to pay for a consultation that is quality and that will help you decide if you should go it alone or hire an attorney.

Anthony Spratley
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Experienced Divorce, Child Custody, and Child Support Lawyer Serving Albuquerque and Beyond
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