Do You Have Problem Clients? Maybe Your Free Consultation is to blame.
Are you wasting your time offering free consultations?
I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices. I can’t tell you how many lawyers I’ve worked with who complain constantly about what my friend Nina calls PITA (pain in the a**) clients who won’t listen to their advice, don’t pay their bills or are otherwise a drain on their practice.
The first place I look when one of my clients complains about their clients is at their client selection process – how are they deciding which clients are right for their practice? Sometimes just a small tweak to their initial consultation and their client selection process is all it takes to weed bad clients almost entirely out of their practice.
One of the biggest culprits I’ve found is the free consultation.
Free consultations are ubiquitous in the legal world, but sometimes, they do more harm than good. By offering a free consultation, you’re telling a potential client right from the outset that your time and advice isn’t valuable. It encourages clients who are hyper-focused on price and simply looking for the cheapest solution or just want to pick your brain without paying for it.
Too often, lawyers provide great value at the initial consultation, but don’t get paid for it. Some of those who take advantage of the free consult will walk away and never hire the lawyer. Not only does the lawyer not get paid for the wisdom they’ve imparted during the meeting, but it also may prevent the lawyer from taking another client down the road because of a conflict. The hours spent in free consultations are taking you away from your paying clients and causing frustration for people who have no intention of paying or cannot pay
That’s bad, but it isn’t the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is the bad client who actually retains you after the free consultation and then argues about every bill you send them.
What should you do instead? Charge a fee for your initial consultation. You can charge a discounted rate or even credit the entire consultation fee back to any client who actually retains you.
Find out how I can help you improve your initial consultations and your intake process – contact me at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com.
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