Do you offer a free consultation?

Posted on Aug 20, 2021 by Katie Carter

This is a pretty easy one. The answer is no, we don’t offer a free consultation. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to the difference between an audition and an informational meeting.

You see, other attorneys – most notably personal injury, or PI, attorneys – offer free consultations in an attempt to entice prospective clients to meet with them. Since they work on contingent fees (meaning that they take a percentage of the settlement or verdict at the end of the case, often a very large percentage), they are looking to attract the cases that will yield the most profit for them.

Instead of providing information, they’re hoping to dazzle the prospective client with their amazingness in the hopes that the most injured (and therefore most valuable) clients will sign to retain that attorney and that firm.

Family law – and many other types of law, like wills, estates, and trusts – doesn’t work like that. We don’t take cases on contingency fees; in fact, we CAN’T, even if we wanted to, because our ethical rules prohibit us from doing so. (And, gosh, could you imagine how expensive that would be? What if we DID take 30% of a client’s entire marital share? Eeeks!) We could be disbarred, so it’s not like exceptions get made, either. We work on retainers, and bill hourly for work as it is done.

That means you pay up front, and you pay a set amount per hour for legal work as it is done.

Yes, it’s different. And you may not entirely like it – especially the whole ‘money up front thing’. We take fees for our consultations, too, because, instead of auditioning you to determine whether your case is valuable enough for us to take, we’re hoping to give you the information you need to make the right choices for your own situation.

Our initial consultations are in depth, super informative, and end in us helping the client determine what her next steps should be. We’re impartial – we’re not trying to force someone to move ahead when/if they aren’t ready – and it isn’t our goal to dazzle you into hiring us. We’re here to help you have the information you need to make big decisions about your future, period.

How much is an initial consultation at Hofheimer Family Law Firm?

The cost of our consultation is $285, and that covers up to an hour of attorney time. It’s meant to be a bit of a deal, since our attorney hourly rates start at $300 an hour and go up from there. Still, there’s no question that $285 is a significant investment, and often at a time when the outcome is more or less uncertain.

Why would I pay $285 to meet with you?

Well, there are a lot of reasons, when it comes down to it. Ultimately, you do have to feel you’re making the best decision for you, but I do think that, for women, we’re a really good choice. (Not so much for men, since we barely let them in the front door and definitely don’t represent them – ever.)

Our legal ethical rules also prevent us from saying that we’re ‘experts’ in a particular area of law, but it is true that we’re the only family law firm in Virginia representing women exclusively in divorce, custody, and support cases. It does give us a level of expertise, and a depth and breadth of experience, that other practitioners just don’t have.

Whether another attorney practices only family law but represents both men and women, or whether you’re considering a lawyer who practices in multiple areas of law, the level of experience as it relates specifically to women’s issues in family law cases just is not there.

Not only that, but we do everything we can to make sure that our prospective clients have the information they need – regardless of whether they hire us. Empowering women through the divorce process is our thing, our passion. We have countless resources available for you, from books, free reports, and articles in our library on our website, to divorce seminars (complete with a pretty awesome workbook, if I do say so myself – you know, as it’s author), a custody seminar, and more.

Our goal is that ultimately, regardless of whether you hire us, you’ll have the information you need to make big decisions about your case.

We’ve also got a team of great attorneys. You can read each attorney’s bio here, but I’m confident you’ll find someone who makes you feel seen and understood. (Not to mention who’d be great at negotiating your agreement and/or taking your case to court!)

Can the $285 be credited against my retainer?

In many cases, yes! Our general rule is that, if you retain the same day, we’ll credit the consult fee against the retainer, so you can subtract that $285 from the cost of hiring your lawyer to represent you.

It’s really six of one, a half dozen of the other – because we bill hourly on the basis of the amount of time expended. So, if your trust account runs out, you’ll be asked to replenish. And if you have $285 less in the account, you’ll run out about an hour sooner than you would otherwise. Still, there’s no denying that coming up with $285 less at the beginning of the process is going to be advantageous for some.

Usually, if you retain a day later, we do not offer a discount on the retainer fee. (And, really, strictly speaking, the $285 is not a discount, anyway.) We can take payments in installments, in the sense that we can take a little at a time over a period of time, but we can’t open a file or start working on a case until we have a signed retainer agreement and the full amount of the retainer in your trust account.

What if I pay the $285 only to find out the attorney can’t represent me? What a waste!

I get it – no one has money to waste, right?

It’s actually relatively rare that we wouldn’t offer a retainer agreement after a consult, and usually most of the time it’s because the woman is only there for information, isn’t quite ready, or was just getting a second opinion but already has counsel.

In other cases, it can happen because there’s a court date that the attorney is unavailable to attend (or unable to prepare adequately in time). We usually ask about dates ahead of time, but you should always make sure to mention if you’re operating with a specific deadline. We can’t make promises, of course, but we can at least help you find someone who has the date available. If there’s just not enough time to prepare, we can also help you identify what’s most important and what you’ll need to do to represent yourself at the hearing.

Look, it’s never for nothing. We do our best to provide a TON of information, so you can make the best decisions possible. We don’t just go around not handing out retainers on purpose! We’d explain why, and discuss what options are available to you. It’s not like you can’t come back, either after your court date or after you’ve resolved whatever issues are outstanding. In some cases, we can offer a retainer without a second consult; in other cases, we’ll have to require another meeting – but it’s not like we’re just sending you away and saying “good luck with that”!

For more information, to schedule a consultation, or to learn more about what to expect in an initial consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.