The start of most attorney-client relationships is the consultation. A consultation is not a uniform act across all law firms; they don’t teach how to have a consultation in law school. It is not a special process. It is just an initial meeting between lawyer and prospective client. Law firms treat consultations differently depending upon their intake process for prospective clients and what areas of law they work. The basic role of a consultation for employment lawyers is to understand the client’s situation and see if the law firm can help the client solve his or her problems. Let’s talk in more detail about the role of a consultation and what you might expect during a consultation with a Denver employment lawyer.
The role of a consultation with an employment lawyer
If you have never hired a lawyer to help you with a legal problem then you might be unsure what exactly happens during a consultation. The purposes of a consultation generally include:
- Gathering information about the client and the client’s legal problem;
- Assessing the client’s credibility as a potential client and witness;
- Explaining the attorney’s ability to help solve the legal problem;
- The attorney assessing whether to take the potential client on as a client;
- The potential client assessing whether to hire the attorney;
- The attorney selling legal services to the client;
- (Hopefully) forming an attorney-client relationship.
Some law firms focus more on the information gathering and may investigate or consider the case in more detail before moving forward with forming a business relationship, while others focus more on forming the relationship and then collecting more information later. Many firms do a lot of both processes during a consultation.
Whether the potential client is an employer or employee can affect the direction of the consultation. A Colorado employer might need an employment lawyer to work on an immediate problem or want an employment law specialist on retainer. A lawyer consulting with an employer might need to assess the situation differently. Employees normally seek employment lawyers because there is an immediate situation, such as a termination or unpaid wages, and the lawyer needs to assess whether there is a claim to pursue right now or to help the client prepare in the event the situation worsens. These situations all require probing for different types of information and assessing different courses of action with the potential client.
What to expect in a consultation with a Denver employment lawyer
Law firms in Colorado treat consultations differently depending upon their business model and drive for new clients. Do not expect that consultations with lawyers will all be exactly the same. Remember that employment lawyers use consultations to assess potential clients and their cases, which means they are making business decisions about cases during consultations.
Often people believe a consultation with an attorney is an opportunity to solicit advise or have questions answered about employment law or other topics. This is generally not the case. Typically lawyers do not offer extensive legal advice during a consultation beyond assessing the case and what steps may need to occur for a case to become viable. Providing legal advice to a client is normally part of the attorney-client relationship that forms after both attorney and potential client decide to form a business relationship.
Some employment lawyers may offer varying degrees of legal advice as part of assessing your situation and may be necessary to explain whether a case is worth pursuing. You should not be surprised if you contact a law firm seeking free legal advise or to provide you with explanations of employment law that the firm expects you to pay for their time to provide you legal counsel.
Should I have a paid or a free consultation with an employment lawyer?
Paying for a consultation is not indicative of whether the law firm or employment lawyer is qualified to assist you with your situation. Of course, everybody likes something for free and a free consultation is enticing. It is supposed to be. Law firms generally offer free consultations to entice people to schedule a consultation so the law firm can assess many potential clients and find good cases. By removing cost as a factor, it makes it more convenient for people to schedule a consultation because then the only cost involved to the potential client is time.
Free consultations generally arose from personal injury attorneys who practice in a highly competitive area of law in which a lot of money is often spent on marketing. Giving away a lawyer’s time to free consultations is not really free to the law firm because the lawyer could spend that time working on other cases or even taking paid consultations. The free consultation is a marketing cost to the firm. Due to the breadth of personal injury marketing people have often come to expect free consultations as a part of all legal counsel. This is not true. Most areas of law still use paid consultations. Employment law has become more competitive among law firms and part of that has driven free consultations into this area of law.
However, a paid consultation may be no different in terms of process or information provided. The law firm may charge for a consultation because it believes the potential client receives value in the assessment of the situation which definitely requires the lawyer’s skill and expertise. Law firms charging consultations may want to conserve their lawyers’ time to paid work (like most employers) or may want to limit their consultations to people willing to make an investment in their own case.
Whether you should pay for a consultation is not just a question of cost. You should also consider, among other factors, whether the law firm or its attorneys have the skills and expertise to help you with your situation. Looking at the larger picture, if you have a potential case worth thousands (or more), the initial cost of the consultation may be minimal compared to the overall potential recovery. Also consider that many labor and employment law claims allow plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees which include the cost of the consultation.