No matter how much they’ve spent on other stuff, those shopping for a bankruptcy lawyer seem to expect a free consultation.
“Everyone else offers a free consultation” I’m told.
Not me: I don’t do “free”.
But I’ve come to doubt what other bankruptcy attorneys offer is really a free consultation.
Oh, it may be free, but is it a consultation?
A client came to me recently after a free consultation with another bankruptcy lawyer. I was interested in what had occurred that the client and attorney didn’t bond. I probed.
Come to find out, the free “consultation” was 15 minutes long and the client was instructed to bring no documents!
In my book, that’s not a consultation, that’s a hand shake and a sales pitch.
Others who have hired me reported that their first meeting with a previous lawyer was really a meeting with a paralegal.
So maybe what other attorneys have been giving away isn’t really free legal advice but marketing.
Making the bankruptcy decision
Bankruptcy involves the sweep of your life:
- your living situation,
- financial history,
- assets, and
- financial interconnections with others.
I have trouble getting that information, analyzing it, and making recommendations to the client in less than an hour, and often two hours. And documents are required.
Just as I need to explore the client’s situation, the client needs to learn about how bankruptcy works, whether there are alternatives, and what I will expect from them.
Both lawyer and client need to assess whether they are comfortable asking difficult questions of the other and whether the answers they get are trustworthy.
That takes time. It involves big issues.
What’s free advice worth?
I’m not sure how bankruptcy attorneys got in the habit of so undervaluing what they do that they give it away for nothing.
Bankruptcy is a specialty field of law. Bankruptcy takes place in the federal courts, using state law concepts of property, and involving business, tax, family law, and consumer law issues.
That makes it potentially quite complicated. Not always, but sometimes.
And it takes some expertise to know if things are really as simple as one thinks.
The initial consultation is some of the best work I do and the most valuable.
I charge for it because I invest real work in that meeting. I want the client to leave with real information and an overview of their options.
It’s not about making a sale; it’s about making life enabling choices.