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Here’s Why It’s a Good Thing to Pay for an Initial Consult With Your Attorney

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There’s an old adage that you get what you pay for. Going through a divorce is certainly one of the most potentially expensive life events you can go through. It’s also one of those areas where you never want to skimp on the cost by trying to cut corners, such as by hiring an attorney who isn’t the best advocate for you. Or, even trying to do a DIY divorce, which can be even more costly to untangle.

One of those costs, that some (maybe even you) may balk at, is an initial consultation fee with a divorce attorney. However, there are many reasons why you should expect to pay for an initial consultation with a lawyer that will ultimately benefit you. 

Here are reasons why you should expect to pay for an initial consult with an attorney:

1. Time is money: Remember that, for attorneys, this is still a business. Experienced attorneys with a robust client list don’t have the time to give their legal expertise away for free. Just as time is money to you, so it is for them. So, don’t be upset or insulted when they expect a consultation fee upfront. In fact, it shows that they’re running a firm that will likely be around for the long haul, especially if you need them for issues that come up after your divorce, around child support, child custody, parenting time or alimony.

2. Just one meeting limits an attorney’s possible income: Once an attorney meets with you, they’re bound by legal ethics not to discuss the case with anyone else. (This is true even if they don’t take the case or if you choose another attorney.) This means they can’t meet with your spouse due to the potential conflict of interest. If an attorney is going to automatically lose a potential client by seeing you, they need to be compensated for the time they spend with you.

3. You’re not getting what you think you are: You may be wondering, if time is money and lawyers routinely require payment for a consultation, why do some advertise free consults? Most of the time those free consults aren’t with a licensed attorney. At best you’re getting a legal assistant or clerk who’s encouraged to rush the meeting along to mine for as much information as they can from you. They aren’t there to give you free legal advice. Their job is to get as much information from you that’s pertinent to a case and then bring it to the attorney so they can decide if it’s worth the attorney’s time to take the case. This isn’t for your benefit, it’s for theirs.

Plus, if an attorney does offer a free consultation, it most likely won’t be as long or in depth as one you’d invest in. The point of a consultation is for the attorney to learn about you and your case, and to offer some solid first steps to take. It’s also a chance for you to ask questions, and to see if the attorney is the right person to advocate for you. If attorneys offered free,in-depth consultations for a large portion of the day, they wouldn’t have adequate time to work on their clients’ cases and matters.

4. If it’s free, you don’t respect it: Attorneys know that unless the client has skin in the game, many won’t take the initial consultation seriously. Because of this, those asking for a free consult have been known to show up late or not at all for the meeting. A consultation is a lawyer’s way of making money, but if someone no-shows or comes in late then it literally takes money away from their business. More importantly, it takes time away from paying client cases. The fee is a way to make sure the client takes this seriously as a business transaction.

5. Beware of sales pitches: Free consults can also be a way for attorney offices to pitch sales. This isn’t about helping you plan out how to handle the case or to advise you what you should do as the divorce process begins. A paid initial consult will be a strategy session, rich with insights, wisdom and action items that will help determine the course of your divorce and get it started right.

6. A good consult takes prep time and follow up: When you set up the initial consult, the attorney will usually get basic information so they can prepare for your meeting without going in blind. The paid consultation includes the prep time for this as well as follow up after the meeting. A free consultation most likely won’t offer that comprehensive of a view of your case.

7. When you pay for a consult, you show that you’re ready to retain an attorney: Paying a fee shows how serious you are about getting experienced legal help. It’s a sign that you take the decision to divorce just as seriously. You may be mad and gathering info. That’s what the internet is for. To know just how a divorce will affect you and your family specifically, invest in an hour of expert time with an attorney.

Ultimately, it should be a red flag that an attorney doesn’t charge for an initial consultation. Truly professional attorneys will treat this initial meeting as an opportunity to discuss strategy and the merits of your case, not just tell you what you want to hear so they can win your business. It’s in your best interest to pay for your initial consultation.

Contact the Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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