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Lawyers, Prospects and the Consultation Fee: Should Lawyers Charge a Prospective Client a Fee for an Initial Consultation

Ed Poll, the host of The Law Biz Forum - a legal forum for lawyers seeking best practices, wisdom and support - lists the following three choices lawyers have when it comes to charging prospective clients for an initial consultation in this December 11, 2009 forum post called “To charge or not to charge.”

The issue: whether to charge a prospective client a fee for an initial consultation, the meeting before being engaged. The wisdom of charging in this situation has long been debated, and it comes down to three fundamental choices:

    1. Free initial consultation
    2. Paid initial consultation at the lawyer's regular rate, exclusive of any subsequent engagement
    3. Paid initial consultation at the lawyer's regular rate, with the payment applied to the total bill if the consultation results in an engagement.

It should come as no surprise, of course, that there is no debate over whether or not to charge for an initial consultation at our law firm, we simply do not charge a fee.  We believe providing a free initial consultation creates value for our law firm in terms of retention, and lays a foundation for a healthy relationship with our clients. 

Where do you fall in line on this debate? 



I feel that a lawyer shouldn’t charge clients for an initial consultation. A client needs to build trust in the lawyer he or she is dealing with, and by providing a free consultation you help achieve that. It's not only right to provide a free consultation but it is also smart business. As a lawyer, you might be losing money for the free consultation, but if you land a client it will be well worth it.

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