Monday, March 29, 2010

To Anonymous At 3:47:00 P.M.: No, I Don't Do Free Consultations

On the local Miami Courthouse Blog, there was a funny discussion about naming sandwiches after judges, and someone whose obsession with not liking me couldn't wait wrote:

guess who wrote this on his web profile:

"The consultation is only free if the client decides to retain me. Otherwise, it is $500 for a consultation. I do not believe in using time that other clients are paying for to speak to potential clients who are merely "shopping" for a lawyer"

The answer, my anonymous friend, is......: me! That's my profile. I wrote that.

Before I respond to my friend's "question," just a few words about the state of the profession regarding anonymous blog comments.

I've said many times that leaving anonymous comments on blogs for the purpose of attacking someone, spreading rumors, or otherwise trying to embarrass someone, is the new version of leaving shit on someone's door step, ringing the door, and running away.

When lawyers do it, it just tells me that the profession has sunk to a new low. I understand that people who work in government offices (prosecutors, public defenders, even judges) can't speak their minds and use anonymity to engage in critical discussion. I also understand some people are unwilling to put their name to what they've said. After all, this is not the generation of leaders or outspoken lawyers who are working to change society.

This is the age of fear.

And this is the age of competition and jealousy.

This is the age of lawyers doing what they can to belittle their colleagues all in the name of getting a case.

This, is from where my anonymous friend's comment comes.

He (and yes, it's a he) doesn't really want to know if anyone else knows it's me, and he doesn't want to know whether not giving free consultations is a better business practice. He just doesn't like me, and he doesn't like that I say, without anonymity, that I don't talk to people for free.

He would never think to call me and say "hey Brian, can I talk to you about your policy?" "Does it work?" "Because I give free consultations all day and actually advertise it like a neon sign - FREE CONSULTATION." "Could I stop and still make money?"

He just wants to let everyone know he doesn't like me, and therefore doesn't like anything I say.

But I will answer his question.

Yes, I charge a consultation fee. Why, is it illegal? Am I required to talk to potential clients for free? Who invented the free consultation anyway? Probably lawyers who were looking for a way to be more car salesman like and "get the customer in the door."

I don't want the "customer" in the door that isn't looking to be my "customer." You can have them, anonymous. You can have all of those that are looking for a free consultation. I won't judge you, promise. Unlike you, it doesn't have any affect on my life how other lawyers run their business. I just hope they do it ethically and without resorting to cheap tactics, you know?

Most people who meet with me, hire me.

Most people who ask if there is a consultation fee, have little or no money.

My current clients wouldn't appreciate if I was sitting around all afternoon talking to other potential clients for free, using their time that they paid for. I use my "free" time to do pro bono work. I trust you do a great deal as well.

Therefore, I rarely get a consultation fee because I'm unwilling to meet with those unwilling to pay for one, and those that are told there is one unless I am retained, and come in, usually retain me.

So it's like tasting fees in Napa (sorry for the gratuitous wine analogy). Most wineries have a tasting fee. The reason for the tasting fee is to keep out those that just want to drink free wine. Tasting fees are rarely charged to those that buy wine.

Now, to my anonymous friend, I have some advice.

If it bothers you so much that I do this, and that I am willing to put it in writing on (where most of my calls have come from people with little or no money looking for a cheap lawyer), feel free to further take out your dislike for me by stating in your marketing brochure: "Come to my office, because unlike Brian Tannebaum, I don't charge a consultation fee."

I hope it gets you more business, and more free consultations.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.



Stephen said...

Loved the article. Agree with your sentiments on anonymous trashing of lawyers by other lawyers.

Also agree on the free consultation thing. Where I come from (South Africa), there is no doubt that those who advertise (in bright neon signs) that consultation is free (or even better, no win, no fee) are generally those who see their clients as "customers" from whom they will make money, not as clients for whom they will do good work, and be rewarded accordingly.

There is another point. Ever noticed that when you give free advice, people just don't take your advice seriously? Funny old thing human nature - advice that cost you $10 000 is infinitely better than free advice, even if the free advice was carefully considered.

Stephen (

Kimberly said...

I wouldn't charge for consultations either if I had your credentials. Of course, given my few years in practice, it's hard for me to get away with it - but I do believe it is appropriate and, in fact, smart business practice.

David V. Lorenzo said...

You get what you pay for.

David V. Lorenzo said...

By the way, anonymous = coward.
If you have a job where you can’t comment because of the appearance of impropriety, don’t comment or quit.
Don’t be a punk.
Identify yourself when you trash people or keep your mouth shut.