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Should you pay a consultation fee for a divorce lawyer?

Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Benson Varghese

Consultation Fees in Divorce Cases

Some law firms tout “free consultations” as a selling point to attract potential clients, but the reality is most reputable firms charge for a consultation. If you are wondering if you should pay a consultation fee for a divorce lawyer, there are many factors to consider.

First and foremost, a paid consultation means you are getting an hour with an attorney who has reviewed preliminary information about your case and is prepared to discuss case-specific strategy and advice.

Family law attorneys often charge consultation fees so they can be 100% focused on the client during the visit, and take specific time to prepare for the unique facts and circumstances of each potential client. The attorney will listen to you, the facts of your case, its history, review any existing orders, and discuss a plan for moving forward.

Second, paid consultations are not sales sessions. For many, this is the most compelling reason to pay for a consultation. At our firm, you will speak to an attorney who is not pushing divorce or for you to hire us. Sometimes, counseling and reconciliation is what the potential client really wants, not a divorce. A paid consultation ensures the attorney and potential client both have the freedom to consider every option. It is also a meeting to make sure moving forward would be a good fit for both the client and the attorney.

You Often Get Legal Advice During a Consultation

One reason lawyers sometimes charge consultation fees is that they often must provide legal advice during the initial consultation. When a consultation is free, the firm will most likely take a cursory glance at your case simply to decide whether they want to accept you as a client. On the other hand, a thorough consultation usually requires an attorney to review the facts of the case and do some initial legal analysis about its strengths and weaknesses. For example, during consultations, attorneys often advise the prospective client regarding case- and fact-specific matters. This legal advice is critical to ensuring that the client files their lawsuit on time, and all of the legal options available to the potential client. Providing quality and specific legal advice is at the core of the attorney’s work, and they do not take legal advice lightly, which is why thorough attorneys may charge an initial consultation fee.

A Consultation Fee Goes Toward Preparation Time

When you go in to meet with an attorney, you want them to have a comprehensive understanding of your situation. Lawyers often need to prepare for meetings with prospective clients so they can spend more time discussing the merits of your case, and less time during the meeting learning all the facts of the case for the first time.

When Firms Fail to Charge Consultation Fees, Potential Clients May Not Be Meeting with an Attorney

Some firms that do not charge fees do not send an attorney to come meet the prospective client. Instead, you may be meeting with an assistant, paralegal, or intake clerk who will simply take down your information and pass it on to an attorney later, who will then decide whether they want to take on your case. The reason the law firm might send a non-attorney to the consultation is because each employee at a law firm has an “hourly rate.” If a paralegal’s hourly rate is lower than an attorney’s hourly rate, then it is less costly for the firm to send a paralegal to a free consultation than an attorney, who could be spending that hour doing other work for a paying client.

Many prospective clients would prefer to meet with an attorney, particularly the attorney who would be representing them should they choose to sign on to the firm. Be wary of firms offering free consultations, as there is a strong possibility that you would not be meeting an attorney during your first meeting.

Consultation Fees Allow the Lawyer to Focus on Your Case

Lawyers are often juggling multiple cases and clients at the same time. The law firm is a business, so there may be times when the lawyer has to prioritize billable work over non-billable work for economic reasons. If the consultation is not billable, then the lawyer may not have an incentive to dedicate time to the prospective client’s case or provide the much-needed initial legal advice that the client may need to know. A paid consultation relieves some of this tension and allows the attorney to know that they can focus on you, the prospective client.

Both Parties Know the Other Is Invested

Busy law firms get a lot of requests for consultations. As much as firms would like to be able to represent almost everyone who comes in looking for advice, lawyers have a duty of professional responsibility to their clients. They must diligently and zealously represent each one of their clients, which means they must be careful to manage their caseload.

The promise of a free consultation attracts a lot of potential clients to set up meetings, but at the end of the day, only a fraction of these people are serious about taking legal action or paying for legal advice. One reason why lawyers charge consultation fees is so they can narrow down their pool of potential clients by only consulting with those who are serious and ready to get started.

Similarly, you can be sure that lawyers who charge consultation fees are giving you their full attention and that they are serious about getting to know their clients. Rather than spending all day holding free consultations with hundreds of potential clients, they are more likely to be responsibly managing their caseload and using discretion in taking on new clients.

No Two Cases are the Same

Some people worry that they do not need a consultation at all. You may believe that your divorce is going to be straightforward, and the lawyer should be able to give you a boilerplate cost estimate. However, know that for lawyers, no two cases are exactly the same. The devil is in the details when it comes to taking on a new client, and a lawyer will want to know the specifics of your case so they are in the best position possible to represent you.

Contact the Experienced Divorce Lawyers at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group

When a lawyer charges a consultation fee, they are committed to treating your consultation – and your case – with a lot of care. At Varghese Summersett Family Law Group our attorneys have years of experience consulting with and advising potential clients. We are diligent in ensuring that each client is a right fit for us, and because of that, we are able to effectively manage our caseload and treat each case with the attention it deserves. Call our office at (817) 900-3220.

Benson Varghese
Benson Varghese
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He's been named a Super Lawyer and a Top Lawyer by Fort Worth Magazine.

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