(There’s no free lunch either.)
That makes us different from lots of other bankruptcy lawyers.
Different enough to offend a prospective client who called up this week. He was unwilling to pay for a consultation, and stormed off and wrote a negative review of the firm, without ever having talked to me.
Apparently I can’t be any good at bankruptcy law if I want to be paid for my expertise.
So, for the man so offended, here are the reasons I charge for that initial consultation.
1. Maybe you don’t need to file bankruptcy
I don’t want you to file bankruptcy for me to make a living.
I want to be free to say to a client: you don’t need me.
For some significant fraction of my clients, they don’t need to file bankruptcy. Either the law or their economic situation already protects them from creditors, or bankruptcy won’t solve their problem.
It’s hard for a lawyer to have to choose between giving good impartial advice and landing a paying client.
Pay for my time upfront, and no financial issues stand between us.
2. Initial consultations are the best & hardest work I do
If your goal is to walk out of a bankruptcy lawyer’s office knowing what your options really are, that takes time and real work on my part.
We need to gather and assess all of the relevant facts. I need some of your financial history and a peak at what you think is coming down the pike, moneywise.
What are your goals in considering bankruptcy? Are you even eligible to file bankruptcy? Here, in this district? Now?
How will your bankruptcy affect your family, your business, and your future?
I sort the facts, your goals, law and procedure to find a good fit. Done well, that’s hard, and critical, work.
3. We get real work done
If you’re paying for the time we spend together, you’re motivated to come prepared, with the documents we need, to get real work done.
Without facts that only you have, like the balance on your mortgage, the age of your tax debts, how you hold title to your home, the interest rate on your car loan, I can’t offer very concrete advice.
So, when you have a financial investment in getting your money’s work, you carry your end of the conversation about your finances.
Then, there’s the stuff you want to know about bankruptcy, the process, and the end product.
None of that is a quick conversation. Yet if we do it right, we end knowing where we are going and with a relationship that will carry us over the challenges of filing bankruptcy.
4. People don’t value what they get for free
The fact that there are official bankruptcy forms that are the same in every case makes it easy to think bankruptcy is just about “filling out forms”. Bankruptcy advice becomes a fungible commodity, rather that the application of experience and law to facts.
A free consultation feeds that misperception.
Giving away great hunks of time makes client think that my input isn’t valuable. It invites them to undervalue the import of my advice.
It also empowers them to waste my time. Long ago, when I did do free consultations, people would make an appointment and then not show up. Often without even the courtesy of calling.
They’d found someone closer to them, or decided they weren’t ready, or learned what they wanted to know from somewhere else.
And when the price of the service, rather than its quality, was the most important thing to the client, they often weren’t the best clients.
If I don’t value my expertise, how can I expect you to value it?
5. Time and expertise is all I have to sell
Lawyers are true knowledge workers. We carry our stock in trade around in our heads.
Unlike doctors, we don’t have instruments to brandish or testing machines to use on you. You can’t see either my product or the process by which it’s delivered.
We have just words, questions, and experience use to assess your options and offer you choices.
If I give away big chunks of time, that’s time I don’t have to help people for whom my help is valuable.
Everything I write is free
This site, Bankruptcy Soapbox, and its companion site, Bankruptcy In Brief, are the product of 20 years of my writing so that non lawyers can get a better understanding of bankruptcy and how it affects them.
I don’t sell a thing on these sites.
My law partner, and my husband, can each tell you (with assorted amounts of grumbling) how much time the content of these sites have required over the years.
They are my gift to the public and the profession, absolutely free.