Our society is not unified in the definition of a “Free Consultation.” You can look in dictionaries, but the definitions allow for a high degree of ambiguity. My experiences tell me that there are two distinct perspectives on the free consultation. Mine, and that of some potential clients.
My Definition: Tell me the basic facts about your case. Generally, I’ll get these from you by asking very pointed questions. Having done this before, I know what is important. Based on this information, I’ll have an understanding as to the best general course of action and my anticipated workload. From this information, I’ll explain (generally) the process and my fee to lead you through it.
Time required: 5-15 minutes.
The Definition Per Some Potential Clients: Find a lawyer. Pick one who is either really young or really old. The young ones are go-getters and idealists who really want to help, and the old ones are grandfatherly, sappy, and paternal. Both of these populations are particularly vulnerable due to these qualities. Avoid middle-aged looking lawyers whenever possible, they put-up with the least amount of crap. Get the lawyer on the phone. Ask him as many questions as possible. Lure him into giving gritty details about the process and possible outcomes. “What-if” the hell out of all possible contingencies. When he tries to back away and exit the conversation, use telemarketing skills to lure him back. When necessary, pass the phone to a family member or friend. This is especially helpful for bathroom breaks and preparing meals. If the lawyer attempts to quote a fee or retainer, steer him back to answering questions by making him feel guilty. Useful phrases include:
- I only have a few more questions.
- I know you’re busy, but I’m almost done.
- Hang on a sec, one of my kids is going potty (particularly useful if you need to go potty).
- Oh, that fee sounds good. I’ll just need until Monday to call the bank. But, I really need to understand this now, can we please start until I get the money. I’ll call the bank as soon as we are done.
- My wife/husband has a few questions for you.
- Can you please let my mom know what is going on?
Lull him into a coma, if possible. Tell him about Aunt Mabel’s bladder surgery. When desperate, consider telling him that you know he is the perfect lawyer for you and that you really, really want him to represent you. Always remember that you have no intention of paying or retaining him. This is your secret, though. Known only unto you. Never be afraid to become overly emotional, irrational, or both.
Time required: ∞.