To Charge or Not To Charge? That Is The Question

Should your firm be charging a fee for consultations? Deciding whether or not to charge for client consultations can be a challenging choice to make with so much to consider. Charging consultation fees may seem a bit money grubbing, but offering free consultations typically attracts a crowd of people who are not really looking to retain an attorney. Instead, they want to receive free legal advice. The truth is there is no perfect answer that applies to all firms and all services – it must be decided by each firm.  However, most attorneys are not charging for consultations, when they absolutely should be.

Small Firm or Solo Practice Attorneys

If you are a smaller firm or solo practice, every hour matters.  You are dedicating several hours a day to client consultations and it can end up being a waste of time and resources when you do not end up retained. And often times the only way to make up for lost time and resources is to raise rates for retained clients. Choosing to charge a fee will likely decrease the number of client consultations.  But consider this… you are weeding out those individuals who are only seeking free legal advice. Furthermore, by charging a fee, attorneys can provide a more comprehensive and in-depth consultation.

Your consultation fees can be more than just a straight fee.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider crediting back the consult fee if they retain you. This will ease the hurdle for some clients of making an initial payment and creates value for the legal advice you are giving.
  2. Offer a flat rate service fee for clients who may just want information and not going to retain you for services. Provide more actionable information that will be helpful to them.

Billing on Contingency

If your firm bills on contingency, then charging a fee for the consultation process is not really an option. The consultation in this scenario is more of an assessment as to whether there is enough harm for both the client and lawyer to get paid out of their damages.

Is It Costing You?

If offering free consultations is costing you and, subsequently, your clients, then it is time to make some changes. Your firm is a business, and the ultimate goal is to earn a wage by offering your hard earned expertise in certain fields- not offer free advice to those who do not appreciate your time.

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