‘Do I have a case?!' –(how about a free consultation?)
I often get calls asking for a free consultation. It is not my practice to do so in the areas of law in which I normally work.
I don't do this because when I am asked to answer a ‘brief question' it usually is anything but brief. Most legal questions take more than just a couple minutes to explain, much less explain in depth and have time for a reasoned response. It is uncommon that when I speak with someone about their problem, there is a simple ‘yes' or ‘no' waiting at the end. As much as that may seem self-serving and not helpful to would be clients, I simply cannot answer most questions quickly nor with any degree of absolute certainty—there are just too many variables.
My practice is to do initial consultations for one hour. I charge for that time. I charge because I am giving good, professional information from my years of experience and knowledge of the law. I help those who come in for that consultation decide whether they want to proceed, and how they want to proceed. I clear up what needs to be done, (if anything at all) whether they should be the ones to do it, and what the process looks like—in short, after a consultation, the individual is now able to make an informed decision about beginning and navigating the legal process regarding the difficulty they are facing.
Having said that, I nearly always will speak without charge for a few minutes over the phone to anyone who calls about their case; I call it a would-be client's ‘beauty' review—they need to know if I am someone with whom they can work, or if the personalities just don't mesh at all. If it doesn't seem to be workable, we won't move beyond that short discussion.