What About Those TV Ads?
Some of the big TV advertisers will tell you on their expensive ads, that they will consult with you for no charge, and on contingent fee injury cases, they offer a “no fee guarantee”. Again, I know the folks at the different firms who put these ads on TV, and they are good business people, but what they do not say, is that on injury cases, nobody in Michigan charges for initial consultations.
They also do not mention that the nature of a contingent fee contract is that if they recover nothing, you pay the lawyer nothing. “Contingent fee” means we lawyers get paid a percentage of the recovery; if the recovery is zero, than the fee is zero, by definition.
That is just good marketing, and like I said, they are all nice folks, even if the ones on TV will never see your case.
Charging For Phone Consultations
One practice I have NOT seen among lawyers here in Michigan (though it may exist here, as well), is to insist that the client give up their credit card information, so that the lawyer (again, out-of-state) could charge for his/her time, before even making the decision to enter into an attorney-client relationship.
I understand the idea of charging, once the decision has been made to take on legal duties and responsibilities; after all, a lawyer’s stock in trade is our time, and the time we devote to the client’s purpose should be compensated. However, this is different; the lawyers I am describing wanted to charge money for the phone consultation, i.e., before the attorney-client relationship was established.
Not long ago, I myself was subjected to this conduct, on a matter in another jurisdiction, where I had a business dispute, and in which I was not and am not licensed. Because I am not licensed there, and because it is far away, like you, I had to search out counsel. Evidently, this must be an accepted practice in this distant location, because numerous attorneys there, did the exact same thing, anxiously trying to pry my credit card information out of me, before even deciding to take my case on.
In my judgment, it was cheap, low-budget behavior worthy more of a phishing scam, than it was of lawyers, who are supposed to practice in a learned profession.
In other words, I understand your concern about free consultations. Again, I charge nothing for a phone consultation, and the vast majority of the consultations that take place at the first follow up appointment, are free, as well.