Every day, our patient and caring support staff answer calls from distressed individuals needing professional legal advice and guidance. They often seek support on an immigration law issue plaguing their lives. During many of those calls, the caller is surprised to hear they must actually pay for the attorney’s time. There often is an expectation that attorneys give their time and advice at no charge, in exchange for the possibility of getting paid business from them someday.
While free consultations are the norm with certain practitioners and “Paralegals,” it is not 🙅♀️the NORM in Immigration law. Most SERIOUS AND EXPERIENCED attorneys 💼 specializing in Immigration law charge for their time when giving professional legal advice.
It’s why you pay your DOCTOR for even a short medical visit.
When you think about this, would the expectation of free services make sense with other professionals? If you went to a doctor’s office in hopes of getting your medical condition diagnosed, would you expect the doctor to not charge you?
Should that doctor be expected to donate their time and work for free, because you might come back for paid treatments later? Of course not. Immigration law attorneys should not be treated any differently.
My Accountant and many CPAs charge at least $100 to review a new potential client’s tax returns. That’s fair and professional.
Yet, those lawyers who do only paid consultations are frequently forced to justify it. Here’s why our firm, like many others, does not give “free consultations” – and why you should not want us to.
1. Your meeting with us takes approximately one hour of our attorney’s time, often MORE.
A consultation at Shepelsky Law Group is not merely a “meet and greet” for the hope of future business. You will have approximately one hour with one (or even two) of our attorneys. We have someone who does a detailed intake and collects your paperwork for the attorneys.
Prior to meeting with you, our attorneys and specialists review your information and your paperwork. The attorney will obtain the relevant details of your case. Then, they will assess the situation from a legal standpoint based on the details you have provided. They will answer your various questions and help you strategize your next steps. And yes, you do pay for the attorney’s time. You are asking them to devote to you and the professional legal advice you are asking them to provide you. Then, we send you a detailed plan of action with the fees quoted. The plan of action is our strategy and legal advice in your case.
2. No protection to our lawyers.
Our malpractice carrier protects only legal advice in attorney-client situations. When you do not pay for your consultation, that does not give us malpractice protection. It’s ambiguous whether you are our “client.”
However, we will give you our full attention and professionalism during this time, taking your case and legal situation seriously.
3. We are meeting with you to advise you, not just to gain your future business.
Some people schedule consultations with our firm because they recognize they have an immediate legal need. For example, they may have a pending divorce or a prenuptial agreement, and they intend to immediately retain an attorney. Some people schedule consultations because they are unhappy in their marriage, but unsure if they want a divorce.
A thorough consultation with an immigration law attorney may bring clarity regarding a divorce from a legal and/or financial POV. This way, the person can be mindful of that when wrestling with an emotional decision about ending their marriage. Others know they cannot afford ongoing legal representation in their matter. However, they hope to gain knowledge and clarity by meeting with an immigration law attorney for an hour.
The purpose of our consultations is not to tell you where we went to school, proclaim that our firm is the best of the best (though we are really freakin’ good), promise you the world, and/or to tell you exactly how much your case will cost (which is impossible for any attorney to do). Rather, the purpose of the meeting is to:
- gather as many relevant facts and details of your matter as we reasonably can during the allotted time based on the information you know;
- provide you with a high level explanation of the legal issues that pertain to your situation;
- provide professional legal advice to you on next steps.
This is the purpose of that hour – regardless of whether you intend to retain the firm thereafter, whether we feel you would be a good fit for us as a client, or whether you can afford to return. For that one hour of value you are receiving, it is appropriate to pay for that attorney’s time.
4. You need to have some understanding of legal fees.
Our consultation fees are clear and in writing. When we send your plan of action after the consultation, we share our fees and exactly how you can pay us. We make our fees transparent. Some lawyers do not charge for consultations. Others deliberately do not allow the person scheduling the consultation to give the caller any information about the hourly rates of the firm’s attorneys. We, on the other hand, are honest and clear with our fees.
The firms practicing the “free consultation” method typically give very limited “advice” during that consultation. It’s free, and therefore not meant to give the client any extra value. The emphasis of this “free” consultation model is ONLY to make a sale and induce someone to sign a retainer.
5. You deserve to have an attorney who can properly focus on helping you when you are a paying client.
Free consultations pull the attorney away from paying client matters. It causes an unfair distribution of time in our work day. It leaves both the “free” consultation clients and paying clients frustrated. Clients would receive LESS than they deserve or than what the cases warrant. It also leaves us, lawyers, unnecessarily burned out and unable to think clearly. You have to compensate for unpaid time by working longer hours to catch up on paying cases.
Free consultations usually only attract people who want to ask a lot of hypothetical questions and second opinions but are not ready to get started. The payment for a professional’s time weeds out those who are not serious about changing their life. You will work with a lawyer who only spends their time giving legitimate legal advice.
6. Exceptional Attorneys are already busy and do not need to sacrifice their time for free to get new business.
Free consultations convert to a very low percentage of new retainer contracts. I speak here from 20+ years of experience.
We have over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Lots and lots of people need a lawyer. We are a small bar, there are maybe 20,000 of us in this country. Good lawyers get busy within 2 years of opening their practice (again, I am speaking from personal experience). If a U.S. Immigration Lawyer is truly exceptional at what (s)he does, that attorney will have enough clientele to sustain his/her time. That attorney does not have the need (nor time) to give away their talent, energy, and time for free. Their professional legal advice is more valuable than that.
Do you expect your attorney to be focused, cost-efficient, and energetic enough to pave your path to freedom? That attorney’s time cannot be frivolously wasted on those who don’t pay for it.
6. Avoid Immigration Mills
On the other hand, “immigration mills” offer free consultations because they only care about the quantity of their clients. They don’t care about the quality of their cases. You may get their time for free, but their type of representation is something you should RUN FROM and avoid at all costs.
I have a colleague in my community who files an asylum case in one day. They fill out the form with the client and have the client write their story on a yellow legal pad. They slap that asylum story in an envelope with a copy of the client’s passport and send it to USCIS. I interviewed someone for a paralegal job at our law group from there. She told me she handled about 15 of these asylum cases per day. This type of filing has NO CHANCE TO WIN WITH USCIS. Zero chance. We could not hire this person because she was already trained in the worst way. We will not risk our reputation or our client’s cases by having someone with that background at our firm.
Another cesspool of problems comes from free consultation providers who are not attorneys at all. They are pseudo-paralegals and have no training or background about complex immigration legal issues. There is no way they can give you the professional legal advice you deserve! Their case preparation fees equal the attorney fees charged by good respected lawyers. However, they ruin people’s lives by writing fraudulent stories unsupported by any legal research.
8: Take Your Case Seriously, and So Will We
If you are serious about your case, pay for a consultation to an experienced immigration lawyer. Do not look for “miracles”. A respected attorney will charge for a consultation and will tell you the truth about the chances in your cases. They will give you solid, professional legal advice.