The Three Ways To Grow Your Income With Legal Marketing
No matter how great your legal marketing is, there are only three ways to grow your income. We call these three profit opportunities.
The three profit opportunities are:
- Attract More Clients
- Do More Work For Existing Clients
- Raise Your Fees
That’s all there is to it. If you want to grow your income as a lawyer your legal marketing must focus on these three aspects of your practice.
Let’s examine each of these opportunities.
Attract More Clients
This profit opportunity should come as no surprise to anyone. Attracting new clients is essential to the success of a law firm and it is the focal point of any legal marketing plan. The most important elements of new client attraction are:
- Selecting the proper target audience
- Creating a compelling message that resonates with that audience
- Delivering the message at the right time
To the uninitiated, this can be complicated. But if you do your homework and you really understand your target audience, this process can be easier than you think.
Since most attorneys are constantly under time pressure, systems must be created to automate much of the new client attraction. These systems must be step-by-step guides that can be executed with proficiency by every member of your team.
Do More Work For Existing Clients
This profit opportunity is about deepening the relationship you have with your clients. If you build up the amount of trust your clients have in you, they will call you when they need additional assistance. Just remember to stay in touch with them and remind them how much you care.
Raise Your Fees
This is the most basic profit opportunity. Charge more for doing the same work. You can raise your fees only with new clients as you on-board them or, for an instant profit boost, you can implement an annual fee review (and increase) with existing clients.
The biggest barrier to ceasing upon this opportunity is psychological. That’s right. This barrier is directly between your ears.
Conduct A Profit Review
Take a few minutes during the next couple of weeks and look through your client roster. Identify any immediate opportunity to source new work (from within the client base) and identify any immediate opportunity to raise fees.
The take some time and formulate a legal marketing plan that will help you capture new clients with low personal labor intensity.
Once you understand the dynamics of law firm income and profit, you can implement a great legal marketing plan to help you reach your goals.
The Best Competition is No Competition
If you are wondering how to make money as a lawyer you may often be looking at your competition with envy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Easy but not productive.
It happens to all of us. You read a press release or do a quick on line search and you see the name of one of your competitors associated with something positive – and you wonder. You wonder if they’re getting clients you should be getting. You wonder why they are attracting clients you feel you should be attracting. You reassess the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s you’ve had in your mind during the last few weeks.
Then you get angry. You’re angry because they’re stealing your clients. You’re angry because they are cutting into your market share and ultimately your income. You’re angry because they copy your marketing, your strategy and even your tagline.
It happens all the time.
As an example: Right now, as you read this, there are no less than two dozen former lawyers, using some variation of my principles, and claiming to be legal marketing gurus. I send out a couple of cease and desist each week to these folks.
But that’s not the solution.
The solution is to innovate faster than they can copy. The solution is to go where they won’t go and to do the things they won’t do.
Here you go (readers and copycats break out your notebooks):
Charge higher fees: If you charge the highest fee in your profession you can spend the most to acquire a new client. This automatically puts you in rarefied classification. Everybody wants to attract clients on the cheap. Hell, you might have even stumbled upon this article trying to figure out how to make money as a lawyer without spending any money. Well, that lumps you in with everybody else. Charge more so you can out-gun the others.
Provide a better experience: My competitors are personal injury attorneys moonlighting as marketing wizards, bankrupt granola crunching trust attorneys and assorted failed lawyers from all practice areas. They have no idea how to create a great experience for their clients, referral sources and prospective clients. They simply take their cash and sprinkle some regurgitated knowledge on them.
You can do better. You can make the experience exceptional for your clients and referral sources.
Be persistent and consistent. Most of your competitors will not be able to keep up with the discipline necessary to hold a market leadership position for the long term. Stay the course. If you continually execute the fundamentals, more often than not, you will be successful and you will crush your competitors.
There’s more to it than just these three tips but mastering these will be enough to crush most of your competitors.
Side note: If you are in the business of helping clients solve the mystery of how to make money as a lawyer (my competitors) and you are going to use this post as a road map, I’m glad to have you along for the ride. There’s a pretty good chance you will wind up circling the drain like the others who have preceded you. I wish you well.
Marketing for Lawyers: Billing As A Competitive Advantage
When you bill by the hour you put your interests in direct conflict with the interests of your clients.
If you are a lawyer billing your clients by the hour it is in your financial interest to take as long as possible to resolve your client’s matter. In most cases, your clients want their matter resolved as quickly as possible.
So how can this be a competitive advantage in marketing for lawyers?
If you sit down with your client and understand the value he receives from working with you, you can offer him a fee based upon that value for resolving his matter.
This is not a contingency fee. It is a fee for improving his situation.
Here is an example:
Joe Smith is being sued because his dog bit a neighbor and injured him. Joe has no insurance for this matter.
Joe hires Larry Lawyer. The fee Larry charges Joe is $3,500 if the matter is resolved before going to trial and $10,000 if the matter goes to trial.
(These are not real fees. They are easy numbers to work with.)
Joe wants to put this matter behind him as quickly as possible. If Larry billed by the hour, he might have an incentive to drag the case out, or do work that is unnecessary.
This type of arrangement is not common in the practice of law today.
That’s why it can be a competitive advantage.
The key to employing this strategy effectively is in interviewing the client at the outset of the case and determining his objectives. All clients want a favorable result, but most understand the often the most favorable result will be in mitigating their damages. Your fees should be based upon your ability to mitigate his exposure.
In marketing for lawyers this idea – billing based upon the value you provide – can not only be a competitive advantage, it can disrupt the entire industry.
You have an opportunity. Create your own advantage by developing a billing methodology your clients love.
How To Make More Money As A Lawyer
One topic that brings many people to this website is searching for the term “How to make money as a lawyer.”
They don’t teach you this in law school and I’m happy to fill the knowledge gap.
For the purpose of our discussion today, let’s assume you are a good lawyer and you have a steady stream of referral sources sending you clients.
You are attracting a few new matters each month and you are paying your bills on time but you want to make more money as a lawyer.
There is one way to increase your income without lots of hand wringing and worry.
Simply increase your fees, keep doing high quality work, and prove more value to your clients.
It’s that simple.
Don’t think so?
Here’s an example:
A few months ago one of my clients, an Intellectual Property Attorney, came to me with this exact challenge. You see, he was attracting lots of new trademark work but he was only charging $1,500 per filing. Not only did he think this was fair, but he believed it was the highest fee in his market.
My first question to him was: “What does that include?”
He responded that the fee included a trademark search and the actual filing.
“What about responses office actions, subsequent monitoring of the mark, and any compliance related work after the mark’s approval?” I asked.
“Those are all additional fees, charged later on.” He replied.
My solution: “Add a zero and charge those fees up front.”
So now this attorney offers a package fee that provides “Lifetime Trademark Service.” This means he files the application, responds to any office actions, monitors the mark for infringement, sends out “cease and desist letters” if someone infringes, and keeps all filings up to date for the client, for up to 20 years. He charges a one-time fee of $15,000 for this service.
This provides overwhelming value for the client and it helps keep the client engaged with the attorney for a long, long time. The annual costs for the attorney are minimal (monitoring is provided by a subcontracted service and the attorney receives a discounted rate for monitoring hundreds of marks).
To date, and it’s only been four months, sixty percent of the new filings in this attorney’s practice have been for this upgraded service.
Every law firm can provide some kind of upgraded service and many clients will chose it.
If you are wondering how to make more money as a lawyer, you need to look no further than your own client base. The answer lies within your own creativity and ability to address the needs of your clients.
Unimaginative, Unethical and Completely Void of Creativity
This article probably doesn’t apply to you, so please read it and forward it to a lawyer you believe will benefit from the message.
Like hogs nudging each other at the troth, hourly billing lawyers look for ways to gorge themselves on the slop in front of them while they attempt to, simultaneously, stick their snouts into the slop of all other pigs in proximity.
Just in case the hog analogy is too ambiguous, I will be more direct:
Hourly billing is used by unimaginative, unethical lawyers who are completely void of any and all creativity.
I will explain.
Hourly billing is unimaginative.
Trading hours for dollars has been around since the beginning of recorded history. In fact, if you look at the oldest profession, you will see that practitioners in that industry (also considered a professional service) charge by the hour today just as they did centuries ago.
Many service businesses charge by the hour. Auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and high school math tutors are just a few examples. And workers in entry level jobs are also paid by the hour. The supermarket clerk, bank teller, postal worker and parking lot attendant are all compensated based upon the time they put in.
The ubiquity of hourly billing makes it easy for clients to understand. This is one of the reasons lawyers give when they cite billing their clients in six minute increments. After all, isn’t complex commercial litigation akin to picking up cheeseburger wrappers in a parking lot?
“Besides, every case is different,” says the hourly billing lawyer. “Even though I have tried dozens of cases and represented hundreds of clients, how am I supposed to know what lies beneath the surface of your case? I mean, I guess I could do a comprehensive diagnostic review of your matter and ascertain your desired outcome in advance. But that would mean investing time upfront for minimal compensation. I feel like I am being nudged to the end of the troth because nobody else is doing that.”
As the “everyone else is doing it” justification surfaces we reflect upon visions of people lighting up cigarettes, eating charbroiled meat and refinancing their homes at 105% loan to value. How can it be wrong if everyone else is doing it?
Hourly billing is unethical.
Let’s say I hire an hourly billing lawyer to handle the following litigation matter for me:
A guy was going to sell me his boat and he has changed his mind. I gave him a $100,000 deposit and he refuses to refund it to me – saying he has already spent my money. I want my money or I want to complete the deal for the boat as soon as possible.
Since the lawyer charges by the hour, how does he maximize his fee? He spends as much time as possible on this matter.
Doesn’t that place his interests in this case in conflict with my interests?
I want my money or the boat as soon as possible. If the hourly billing lawyer resolves the matter quickly, he limits his compensation because he cannot bill for time that has not yet passed. Yet if the lawyer drags the matter on and antagonizes the opposing party, he stands to earn more money.
Need another example of the lack of ethics promoted by hourly billing?
Top billing lawyers in big law firms (the hogs with the largest snouts) often bill in excess of 2,000 hours per year. This means, on average, they bill 41.75 hours per week or more. That’s a little more than 8 hours per workday.
So from the minute they get into the office to the time they turn off the lights they are working on client issues. They take no time off to have lunch. They take no personal phone calls. They attend no administrative meetings or continuing education events. Every time they go to the bathroom they think about a client.
Of course, I’m sure they don’t do that. They probably have at least a couple of unbilled hours each day and probably work an additional day or two each week… That means they work seven days per week, for an entire year and bill six hours each day in order to hit that 2,000 billable hour number.
Is this possible? Technically yes. Is it likely? You tell me: Working seven days per week, nonstop for a year? Or working a combination of more hours in fewer days and taking one or two days off per month? It’s possible but not likely over an extended period of time.
Yet some attorneys consistently bill over 2,000 hours every year, play golf on weekends and manage to find time for vacation. How do they do it?
You draw the conclusion.
Hourly Billing Reflects a Lack of Creativity
What makes you different?
All lawyers look the same. All lawyers say the same things when you interview them. They are smart. They are educated. They have excellent track records. (There must be a crappy lawyer out there somewhere who keeps losing to all these great lawyers but I have yet to meet him). And they all bill by the hour.
If you want to be viewed by your client as different, come up with a different way to be compensated.
Lawyers have made themselves commodities.
The client has no choice but to compare you to everyone else based upon price. Your hourly rate has become your name tag.
The Boss says to the General Counsel: “Please call the $250hr guy for the parking lot dispute and use the $400hr guy for the executive compensation agreement.”
If you bill by the hour, this analysis may seem harsh. But you have to ask yourself:
“Would I rather be called on my bullshit by a law firm strategist or by a client?”
Think about it:
When I take you to task, it hurts your pride. When the client takes you to task, it hurts your wallet.
Call your friends who bill by the hour and tell them to lift up their snouts. Times are changing. The troth will soon be dry.
Fee Discounts and Your Income
If you have been reading my articles for any length of time, you have heard me rail against fee discounts.
Why? Because, by discounting your fee, you are essentially cutting your income.
For those of you who may be new readers, and for those who need a refresher, let me provide you with the economics of fee setting. Here are three primary factors to consider when setting fees for your legal services:
Factor One: The Value You Are Providing to the Client
If you are a transactional attorney and you negotiate a deal for your client that saves him one million dollars, is your $20,000 fee a good deal?
If you are a criminal attorney and your client, a corporate executive, is facing a public indecency charge that will most certainly get him fired; is your $30,000 fee for negotiating pretrial diversion and expungement worth it?
You can probably see where I’m going with this. You must present your fees in the context of the value you provide.
The resistance I get when I introduce this concept to new clients is the: “everyone else charges…” argument. That is to say: People always fall back on what their peers/competitors are charging as a justification for charging low fees. The argument assumes that you are exactly the same as everyone who does what you do. You are a commodity.
If you ARE the same as everyone else, if you ARE a commodity, shame on you.
The first rule of marketing is to differentiate your business from every other business that provides similar services. Differentiation is the key to value demonstration.
Factor Two: The Demand for Your Services
If you have enough clients to cover your fixed costs, and pay yourself a reasonable salary, why would you ever discount your fee?
Think about it.
You don’t NEED the business. You are already close to capacity. Yet you take the new client who requires a fee discount in order to do business with you.
Put another way: Others recognize your value and are willing to pay full fee to work with you. Why not just find someone else who will pay full value and take a pass on the discount shopper?
Supply and demand. It’s basic economics. When demand is high and supply is limited, fees are high.
There is only one of you. Supply certainly is limited.
Factor Three: Your Personal Desire
You are not an indentured servant. You set your own fees. These fees should include your personal desire for: 1). Income, 2). Confidence, 3). Lifestyle
If you have specific income goals, you should adjust your fees to help facilitate achieving those goals. If you don’t have income goals I can guarantee you will almost always be unhappy with your income.
There is nothing that provides a lawyer with confidence like clients investing their cash in him. The two go hand in hand. People are emotional about money. If you want someone to be confident in you, convince them to invest in you. Once they put their money on the line they will be a big, big fan.
How do you want to live your life? Do you want to control your own destiny? Do you want to provide your family with the best life has to offer? Do you want to eliminate financial worries forever?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you need to charge significant fees. You cannot nickel and dime your way to wealth…not as a solo practitioner or owner of a small law firm.
But don’t believe my words. Use me as a case study. I only select twelve private clients to work with me each year. I charge $30,000 per year for this privilege. I have a waiting list.
Now there are other ways to get involved with me (my $97 per month Rainmaker Society Membership for example). But there are only twelve new private clients selected every year. Only twelve people who get unlimited access to me. Only twelve people with my private telephone number.
What makes me different? What is my secret?
Re-read this article. It gives you all the information you need to take control of your financial future.
Earn the Privilege of Being Selective
Last week I selected 100 people from my list of Rainmaker Minute subscribers and I made them an irresistible offer.
You see, I’ve developed a new self paced coaching program and I need 10 new lawyers to test it each month. So last Thursday I sent an email to 100 people on my subscriber list and offered them the opportunity to be Pioneers in this program.
This means the lawyers selected will receive one video DVD, audio CD and workbook/transcript from me with three recommendations each month. As Pioneers they agree to evaluate the information and if appropriate, implement the recommendations in their law firm. They also agree to provide feedback.
These 10 lawyers get to participate in this new program for a fraction of what the investment will be in the future. (The people who get in this month are only paying $97).
Within 6 hours of sending the initial offering email, I received 17 applications (yes, I make people apply and I evaluate them before accepting them). Within 12 hours I had 22 applications and I am still receiving a few here and there.
But even with that virtual stampede to sign up for this great deal, there were still a few skeptics. And there is a lesson we can learn from a couple of them.
Two people who received the email offer said they would be interested if I sent them some references of people who had already been through the program. This proves two things:
1).These folks do not read carefully. The reason I am looking for “Pioneers” is because nobody has been through this program yet. That’s why I am taking 10 new people each month and adding them to the client roster. As I add new recommendations I am adjusting based upon the feedback of other clients.
As a way to compensate for a lack of track record in this program I do not require any commitment. If you want out, just say so and you do not need to pay for future months. Just send an email and you’re out. It’s easier and quicker than a Las Vegas Divorce.
2). These folks have a distorted sense of value. Think about all the things you spend $97 or more on with no guarantee of success:
- Dinner for two in a chain restaurant (without wine)
- A trip to the movies for a family of 4, with popcorn, soda and candy
- The gym membership you have not used in 6 months
- A Craftsman Drill at Sears
- A tie, on sale, at Saks
- Your cell phone bill without a data plan
- A box of crappy cigars
None of those things or any of the hundred other things you could “invest” your $97 in will have a significant return on investment.
The coaching program I offered to these lawyers will certainly have a return on investment. Quite a few people were astute enough to recognize this fact and they applied immediately.
Could I have done more to demonstrate the value of my service to the skeptics?
I could have given them the names and phone numbers of my clients who graciously serve as volunteers for references. Some of these folks appear on my website with full name and law firm affiliation available for the world to see.
But in this case I chose not to “sell” anyone on working with me.
Because I have earned the right to be selective. Demand for my service is high. People see the value of working with me at $3,000 per month. Dozens of people see the value of being involved with me at $97. I like working with clients who recognize value.
So what does this mean for you and your law firm?
It means you should price your service fairly based upon the value you provide. It also means you should understand the demand for your service and not worry about the few people who do not recognize your value. They were not meant to be your clients…especially when dozens or even hundreds are out there waiting to work with you.
If you have an interest in this exclusive program, call me and I will interview you. If you are accepted, you will fill the next opening on my client roster. 888.692.5531.
Your Fee Is Too Low
I was totally embarrassed when I heard that statement. I’ll admit it was the first time I had ever heard it after being in business of providing professional services for nearly 20 years.
Here’s the story:
A few years ago I was working with an attorney who had a solid book of business. The guy was doing just north of a half million dollars a year and it was coming from about 21 different clients.
He was a person of high integrity and he built his practice one relationship at a time. The big problem facing this forty-something attorney was that all the income was completely dependent upon him. He acquired the clients. He did the work and he answered every phone call.
And he was sick of working so hard.
My job was to help him figure out how to grow his law firm enough so that he could make the same (or more) money and not have to work so hard – while keeping his client relationships intact.
The solution we created transformed his business.
We decided to hire three new associates into his firm. Each one was assigned seven of the firm’s clients. They were each dedicated to taking care of their seven clients – no more and no less. Each associate received a base salary and a bonus based upon the growth of their relationships. So if one of their clients grew by $10,000 in any given year, the attorney who worked with that client received a $2,000 bonus.
This solution forced each of the attorneys to deepen their relationship with their clients and, in one year, they doubled the firm’s revenue.
At year end, when my client took me to lunch during the holidays, he uttered those magic words: “Your fee is too low”. He went on to say: “That one strategy – dedicating lawyers to a set number of clients and compensating them for deepening the relationship – has transformed my law firm”. As he finished uttering those words he slid an envelope across the table. In it was a sizable “bonus” for me.
Keep in mind that I did not perform any magic in my work with this client. All I did was get him to look at the situation from a different perspective.
Within 12 months, this lawyer went from running a one attorney practice that produced slightly over $500,000 in revenue to running a 4 lawyer law firm that produced $1.3 million.
Take a few minutes this week and look at your law firm from a different perspective. What could you be doing differently to make the practice of law easier for you and more valuable for your clients?
Law Firm Marketing and The Prestige Pricing Strategy™
The strategy I am going to outline for you in this article is not for wimps. If you are not the kind of person who can stare adversity in the face and laugh, then you should stop reading immediately.
Today I am going to share something with you that less than two percent of all lawyers have the guts to implement. I call it The Prestige Pricing Strategy™. This is a strategy that can help you grow your revenue without increasing your workload.
There are two steps to implementing The Prestige Pricing Strategy™.
Step One: Build a Solid Value Proposition
Your clients cannot think of working with you as hiring a lawyer. They must view working with you as a good investment. This means: If you are a transactional lawyer, you make the transaction more valuable. If you are a criminal lawyer, you give the client their best opportunity to fulfill their earning potential by remaining free. If you are a divorce lawyer you give the client the best opportunity to keep his dignity and the assets he really wants.
In The Prestige Pricing Strategy™ you never, ever, quote your fee before you make certain the client understands the value they are receiving. Contrary to the belief of most lawyers, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the client understands the value. Do not expect them to walk through the door, give you a hug and say “Boy am I glad I found you.” You have to HELP THEM feel that way by presenting the value your legal service will bring to their life.
Step Two: Charge Premium Prices
This is the easy part. If you have done a great job explaining the value of the service you provide, you can charge a significantly higher fee than anyone else in the market. You read that correctly. If you show the client your value, you owe it to yourself to be the highest priced lawyer in town.
Look at it this way: You can be Walmart or you can be Bergdorf Goodman. You can be Motel 6 or you can be The Ritz Carlton. You can be Jet Blue or you can be NetJets. Not everyone can afford the latter choice in these examples but, not everyone is their ideal client either.
Benefits of The Prestige Pricing Strategy™
Attracts the Best Clients
If you are seeing a great deal of crappy clients come through your doors, chances are good you are not charging enough money. Many lawyers believe that clients who pay high prices are more demanding. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The worst clients on the planet are the cheapskates who squeeze you for every nickel and dime. Let those folks work with another lawyer.
This is a mistake I made early on in my career. I never turned away anyone. I thought any business was good business. Boy was I wrong. This is the main reason I am making a HUGE change to my business in 2011. I will only be accepting 12 new one-on-one coaching clients. This forces me to be selective and quote a fair value-based fee with NO NEGOTIATION. This self imposed limit has already changed my own perception of my value. There are some clients who will not be able to work with me. I cannot be everything to everyone.
Allows You to Focus Your Business Development Time
This strategy is not about working less. This is about spending more time on marketing. Think about it: If you raise your fees and you work with fewer clients you will have more time available to concentrate on attracting the RIGHT TYPE of client. This time invested in marketing will help you keep the pipeline of prospective clients full at all times. It may even allow you to hire an associate to take on the overflow work.
In my firm I set up a waiting list for my Strategic Advisory Groups. Earlier this year an Immigration Attorney dropped out of one of my Miami groups. I replaced him with one phone call to someone from the waiting list. That waiting list is stocked with people who come from my marketing.
The Fee Commands Respect
Do you ever have trouble getting clients to do what you want them to do? Charging a fee that grabs the client’s attention will increase their compliance with your requests. In fact, a study conducted by Stanford University shows a strong correlation between price paid and happiness with the experience. The higher the price, the better the experience for the client. Why? Because compliance increases and compliance leads to better results.
My personal experience with this phenomenon has proven it to be accurate. In the past I have made barter arrangements with attorneys, exchanging my services for theirs. This has almost always resulted in the attorney devaluing my service and taking it for granted.
Drives a Wedge Between You and Your Competition
You want to be perceived as a better lawyer than your competitors. Yet you charge the same price as they charge (or less). What does that say about you? Are you worse or just foolish?
There are a few other people in the United States who do what I do. None of them is Ivy League Educated with two master’s degrees and 20 years of practical experience in business strategy. I have earned the right to charge high fees and I’m sure you have too.
Help your clients understand why you provide a better value and then charge accordingly.
Pride in Spending Effect
People want to work with the best. When they decide to hire the best lawyer, they want everyone to know about it. If you want more referrals, charging a high fee will help you achieve that goal.
One: You must provide an outstanding value. If you do not provide great service, a terrific experience and make an emotional connection with your clients. If you do not, you have not earned the right to charge high fees. Fix your service, your experience and your relationships first. Then raise your fees.
Two: This is very difficult to do with hourly billing. Hourly billing is the longest running scam in the world (perpetrated by many professions but is especially nefarious when used by a lawyer). Since hourly billing creates an inherent conflict with the client, the Prestige Pricing Strategy will not work. If you are a lawyer who is not creative enough to come up with a billing model that works in the client’s interest, you will never be able to command a high fee premium and my clients will routinely kick your ass when it comes to revenue.
So there you have it. The Prestige Pricing Strategy™ has helped more of my clients make more money and live better than anything they learned in law school.
In Marketing for Lawyers Free is Bad
Most attorneys think offering a free consultation is mandatory. Free consultations are no bargain. Not for the lawyer and not for the client. Here’s why:
A Free Consultation Immediately Positions You Poorly
People believe they get what they pay for. Affluent people and business owners keep this ideal present in their minds at all times. Most people have this permanently ingrained in their psyche. Charging nothing means you are worth nothing.
You Welcome Shoppers
There are a handful of people out there who would shop for a bargain in parachute repair. If you want to meet with all of these people, do not charge for a consultation. Free consultations welcome shoppers to your law firm. You can be certain that if you do not charge people for an initial consultation, people will meet with you just to get a number out of you.
You Devalue Your Time
What is your time worth? If you charge nothing it is worth nothing. Not to you and not to your client. It is that simple.
The Quality of Your Clients/Matters Decreases
If you want crappy matters, a free consultation is definitely the way to go. Money tends to be an indication of how seriously someone is taking an issue. If you are willing to spend $250 on something are you more likely to pay attention to the outcome?
You Take on Liability with No Upside
In a free consultation you will often dispense advice. When you do, you expose yourself to liability. If the person sitting across from you implements your advice and things go badly, they will find you. You do this with no compensation in return.
One of the arguments I hear all the time is: “It is customary in my practice area to offer free consultations. Everyone does it.” Following a majority does not always mean you are acting in your own best interest. In fact, it probably means you are doing what the average industry professional will do. Do you want to be average?
This decision should be easy. When someone comes to your office to discuss a legal matter, they should pay you something. That is one of the reasons you do what you do. This is a business as well as a profession. Treat it like a business.