Many law firms, it seems, offer a free first meeting to potential clients, so it begs the question, “Why do the attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC charge their hourly rate for the initial consultation?”

First, we do so because you will actually meet with an attorney for your initial consultation. At Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, we will take time to understand your situation, develop your legal claim(s), and determine with you what our strategy would be to resolve your case. We will take time to answer your questions, separate legal myths from legal facts, and otherwise ease your worries about the unknown. We will provide advice and explanations tailored to your situation that stem from our years of experience, education, and specialized training.

Many of these “free consult” firms actually have you meeting with a legal assistant or paralegal to conduct an “intake interview.” Even if the person is an attorney, he or she will only provide basic information to you—which Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC already provides for free on our website. During a free intake interview, the person you meet with is likely attempting to determine whether your case will be profitable for the firm or be at all successful. Because the person you meet with is not a lawyer, he or she is not able to offer advice on your situation. If you are an “unprofitable” or not a likely “win” for the firm, you will probably walk away feeling just as confused as you did when you made your appointment.

The attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, want you to leave the office with a meaningful direction and plan of action – even if it does not involve or require our services. Not everyone who has a lot of debt piling up needs a bankruptcy. Some people with family emergencies need to call Children’s Services and let the specialists there start court proceedings before they call our office. Consistent with our policy of providing “straight-talk with compassion,” we will tell you what you need to know so that you can make an educated decision about your situation. The initial consultation, even though you pay for it, is not a binding commitment to use our firm to handle your legal issues!

Another reason we charge for the first appointment is because of the duties imposed upon us by attorney ethics laws. When we meet with you and discuss the facts of your situation, we cannot then turn around and meet with, for instance, your spouse in a divorce case, offer any advice or represent any person against you in court on the matter you discuss with us. We are obligated to protect your secrets and your interests to a certain extent, even though you are only a “potential client” in the eyes of the ethics laws that govern all lawyers. Because we are meeting with you, we lose potential business not just because you are taking up our time, but also because of the lasting commitment we will have to you under these laws.

For this reason and many others, an initial consult with a lawyer is not like getting an estimate for a car repair. It is more comparable to a first appointment with a doctor. You would gladly pay a doctor to determine you have cancer, identify what kind it is, and tell you how it would be treated, should you choose hire that doctor. Why wouldn’t you pay an attorney to “diagnose” your legal situation and outline a “treatment plan” for you, too?