Jeffrey H. Minde, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law, P.A.
4613 North University Drive # 242, Coral Springs, Florida 33067
Admitted to the Florida Bar
© 2010 Jeffrey H. Minde, Esq.
“I WANT A FREE CONSULTATION . . . OR ELSE!”
Over my years as a practicing lawyer I have frequently come in contact with potential clients who ask---or often demand, and sometimes rudely so---a free consultation.
I’m always taken aback at how angry some people become when I explain that this Firm does not offer free consultations: “If you were any kind of a lawyer you’d give me a free consultation!” and “You can’t be very good if you don’t offer free consultations!” are offensive comments I’ve heard over the years. I have had such would-be Clients insist that they are “entitled” to a free consultation. There are Clients who simply won’t work with this Firm because they aren’t getting that “free” time, no matter what.
I have had potential Clients explain that they are coming in “just” to talk (“just” talking is still talking, and is still a use of legal time). Others have told me that they “only” want a consultation (any meeting with your lawyer is a consultation).
Regardless of the wording, this Firm does not give free consultations. I hope that this brief article will help explain why. After reading this, I think you will agree with our policy.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
People love the word “free.” Like anybody else, I like the idea of saving money. But, remember . . . You get what you pay for. That’s a fact of life. Free consultations give you an opportunity to be impressed by the waiting room décor, the office furniture, and the lawyer’s ego wall full of diplomas. You may get to hear some of the lawyer’s war stories, and you may get to hear some very generic legal-speak about legal situations similar to your own, but what you won’t get is quality time and attention from your lawyer. Often, you won’t even get your lawyer. The free consultation is most likely to be an intake meeting where an Associate or a paralegal collects information about you and your case, and it’s a good bet that you will leave the office knowing just a very little bit more about your particular situation than you did before, just enough to confuse you. You may find yourself receiving a nice preprinted card from the firm on your birthday or around Christmas as well as occasional “reminders” to re-do your Estate Plan.
NOBODY GETS SOMETHING FOR NOTHING
If you appreciate that kind of prepackaged “nice” treatment, that’s fine. But be aware that no lawyer is going to invest real working time and effort in an uncommitted person who is just passing through. Your free hour is going to be a 45 minute hour more than likely, and you’re going to be pressured to set a follow-up appointment as quickly as possible. Nobody gets something for nothing. The odds are that the hourly cost of your “free” consultation is going to be factored into the legal bill you do eventually pay, and so will a fraction of every other consultation the lawyer’s given where the client never came back. Do you really want to pay for the one that got away?
GETTING THE CLIENT IN THE DOOR . . . NO MATTER WHAT
Having once worked as an office staffer in a firm where the free consultation was a big drawing card, I quickly came to the conclusion that their free consultations were nothing more than a button-down version of the old bait-and-switch technique. Frequently, a potential Client would come in asking to have a Will done. And just as frequently, they’d leave the office weeks later with a Will and a thick collection of other legal documents whether they needed them or not. That initial free consultation was geared to raising the Client’s anxiety level and selling them additional expensive legal services.
From time to time, I’ve seen very undignified “Bring This Ad With You” flyers, “$69.95 Will Package!” ads, and discount coupons for legal services in some places.
A free consultation may give some potential Clients a sense of satisfaction, but uncompensated time is bound not to be quality time, and it certainly won’t move your matter along.
IT’S YOUR TIME
On the other hand, if you’re a Client who comes in prepared to pay even an hour’s consultation fee, you automatically signal to me that you’re serious about the work we are going to do together. If I feel it’s really necessary, I will tell you if I believe you need a different kind of document or service than you might think, but, most importantly, because you’ve already paid, I have no need to “sell” you. Ours is a dignified and respectful partnership with give and take.
From the outset I’m going to focus specifically on you and your needs rather than spend that first hour trying to convince you to pay me. I can assure you that you will leave the office much more knowledgeable than when you came in, whether we’ve decided to go forward together or not.
INFORMATION IS POWER
This Firm maintains www.nsnn.com an extensive award-winning website with numerous informational links on a variety of legal and other subjects, from Special Needs Trusts and Supplemental Security Income to my own published novels and the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. We created all the material on the site ourselves, the site has grown organically, it has been online continuously since 1995, and it is constantly updated. This Firm’s website is considered to be a major online legal resource in and of itself.
Every interested person who calls the office speaks directly to the Attorney, and we habitually email a set of informational articles on subjects of interest (such as Trusts or Powers of Attorney) to everyone we speak with. By the time of your appointment you’ve already got a good background on the things we are going to discuss, and you can ask meaningful questions and focus on those issues that are important to you. That saves you time and money, and hopefully gives you a sense of confidence in what is, after all, unfamiliar territory for most Clients.
There are occasional individuals who, after having reviewed the website, spoken with me on the phone, and read the email attachments we’ve sent, still ask for a free consultation. There really isn’t any use to one. There isn’t any more information I can give them, except about their own matter.
No, I don’t give a “free consultation” and I won’t waste your valuable time with a dog-and-pony show, or try to bedazzle you with the view from the windows. We’re here to address your special needs. I believe that the Firm’s website, our written materials, and our one-on-one approach to the Attorney-Client relationship have their own value that outmatches any “free consultation” available anywhere. I want you to have the greatest freedom of decision possible in regard to your own legal needs.
After all, it is your concerns that we are here to address.
A good day to you,
Jeffrey H. Minde, Esq.