Are you afraid to ditch the free consultation?

Lawyer consultation feeIn a previous blog entry, I talked about the potential pitfalls in overly highlighting a free consultation.  I spoke of how some law firms opt to do free consultations (and that this is a judgment call), but the word “free” should not be placed in high-profile spots on a webpage or advertisement.

By overly highlighting a free consultation, the reality is that a law firm is making “free” their marketing strategy.  The word “free” really does not give potential clients a reason to come into your law office to see you when numerous law firms are taking the same approach.  Additionally, by plastering the word “free” in high-profile positions in your advertisements, you might not be attracting the kinds of quality, good-paying clients you desire.

As was discussed before, some law firms might still opt to do a free consultation.  But do you need to overly advertise this?  Couldn’t you come up with a viable marketing strategy that says what kind of lawyer (or law firm) you are and that delineates the services you provide?  Then, when they call and ask, couldn’t you simply tell them the consultation is free at that time?

But for many law firms, maybe it is time to do away with the free consultations?  Have you taken a look at how much time you and your law firm spends conducting free consultations?  Have you attempted to quantify all the time and money lost by doing these free consultations?

For many lawyers and law firms, once this is done, the case can easily be made the “free” consultations should go away.  If your law firm or lawyers are spending hundreds, if not thousands, of hours per year doing “free” initial consultations, the cost might be a huge hole in your law firm’s budget.

It is also essential to look at the number of “free” consultations done where the potential client did not even hire the firm.  For many law firms, this number may be as high as 50% and, for many law firms, even much higher.  So, why do all these “free” consultations if the non-retention rate is so high?

Many law firms might also conflict themselves out of cases where they have not even paid a consultation fee.  Take an area of litigation where one party meets you for a “free” consultation, but then does not hire you or the firm.  Then, perhaps the opposing party calls, but you cannot take the case because you previously met with the other party.

Or, how about lawyers who complain that they cannot meet hour billable hour requirements because of all the time spent in “free” consultations.  For many law firms, this is a common argument given by attorneys for low productivity.

When you look at variables like this, why do the free consultations?  Why not charge some amount of money?

Many would argue that if they did not do the “free” consultations, they worry that potential clients would not come into the office.  If this is your thought, you need to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy (or a reputation as a law firm or lawyer) where you have so many leads coming into your office that this is not the case.

In the end, if you are afraid of ditching the free consultations, focus on increasing the number of leads you have coming into your office through marketing, networking or delighting your current clients so they refer individuals to you and your firm.  Then, once you have enough leads coming into your firm, doing away with the “free” consultations, and charging some kind of a consultation fee even if nominal, is a relatively easy decision for most lawyers and law firms.

On the flip-end, if you have so many leads coming into your office now that it is hard to respond to all of them, and even meet them for “free consultations,” the argument for doing away with the “free” consultations is an easy one to make for most.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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