How we do Consultations (and it’s Better!) – Part 1

My office does consultations differently than just about every other lawyer and law firm. In this article, I want to explain how we do them, and why that’s important. My consultations are specifically intended for those who are looking to hire a lawyer in one of my practice areas and maybe doing some comparison shopping and want to get a little information or see if my office is a good fit for their needs. All of my consultations are done over the phone, right when a person calls into the office.

CULTURETWO_3739_1-300x300That convenience factor of doing it this way is also a benefit for me, also, because as much as a consultation is an opportunity for a potential client to size up a lawyer or law firm, it also provides an opportunity for us to evaluate a person and determine if he or she will be a good fit for the way we do things. I am fortunate enough to have a busy practice, and therefore don’t have to take every case that comes my way, nor do I have to compete on price. In fact, I publish my fees, not only in the interests of transparency, but also, because we offer higher-end services, to weed out bargain hunters or anyone else who is price-shopping.

Beyond all of that, I have no interest in taking on any sort of “difficult” client. Younger lawyers and those who are starving for work have little choice but to sit silently as some angry person goes on about how everyone else is at fault, how the police got it all wrong, or how the court system is unfair, but I don’t. If you’ve dealt with the public, then you know some people seem to always have a chip on their shoulders, or are otherwise just always a pain the a$$. I can afford to pass on them, and I do.

Instead, I have the luxury with a better class of clients. Of course, much of this has to do with the kind of cases we handle, and, even more so, the kinds we don’t. Being a DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer means I have a much different clientele than some lawyer who handles murder and rape charges. My work doesn’t involve jail visits, and, as a lawyer, I pretty much don’t take as a client anyone I would mind sitting next to on an airplane.

I handle Michigan OWI charges and license appeal cases along with a very limited scope of criminal cases. As such, my clients are almost always people with good jobs and decent backgrounds. I tend to get a lot of medical and technical people. The types of clients I represent understand that a consultation is a given, and therefore don’t have to ask things like, “do you have free consultations?”

I’m sure that the kind of people who pick me as their lawyer assume and know that it’s good practice to check around with other lawyers and do some comparison shopping.

It is.

Everyone should ALWAYS check out his or her options.

This is rather the opposite of the “Call Now!” mentality pushed by many legal websites, but I’m not that way as a consumer, and I really have no interest in getting clients simply because I can beat every other lawyer by calling back first or having the best price.

Let me explain by example: I like fresh-squeezed orange juice. If I was only interested in a low price, I would be able to find OJ that’s really inexpensive and made from concentrate. Tropicana and a few other, better brands are NOT made from concentrate, but they’re pasteurized, and still not as good as fresh-squeezed.

Fresh-squeezed is the most expensive. Lots of specialty food stores make their own, and, as a consumer, I have tried most of them.

In doing so, I have found that the very best comes from Joe’s Produce in Livonia, and that the 2nd best comes from the Whole Foods Market in Troy, near where I live. Although I love almost everything else they have, I was disappointed at what I got from Vince and Joe’s, in Clinton Township, near my office. I found that the stuff from Papa Joe’s, in Birmingham, was the most bitter of all.

In other words, as far as orange juice goes, I did comparison shopping, not price-shopping. I checked around and explored my options, then decided what I liked best. Anyone looking to hire a lawyer should do the same thing. Of course, you can’t afford what you can’t afford, so that’s one of the benefits of publishing my fees. At least for people who read.

And that’s no small thing.

One thing that drives me nuts (but I’ve learned to live with it) are people who email me and then ask for us to call them. In every article I write, I make clear that all of our consultations are confidential and done over the phone, right when a person calls. I then go on to point out that we can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 586-465-1980. I’ll say it again at the bottom of this article.

How does anyone interpret that in such a way as to send an email and ask us to call them? The answer is that they don’t read very closely, just like anyone who asks “how much do you charge?” has missed the whole “Fees” section of my website, and this blog.

If you want to talk to us, all you have to do is pick up the phone and call.

Does anyone email a doctor, saying something like “I’m sick; please call me.”?

Yet for all the bother, I’ll still reply, telling the person that it’s always best if they can give us a call when they have time to speak, and reminding them that we are available from 8:30 to 5:00. And of course, we will call, although part of the frustration of people leaving “call me” messages is that while we are always ready to speak from 8:30 to 5:00, it’s always kind of a shot in the dark to call someone back and hope it’s a good time for them.

Beyond the logistics, however, the real issue is how we do our consultations. I’ve already made clear that we do it over the phone, but that’s just the method of communication. We’ll stop here and pick up again in part 2 by examining this further.