Most bankruptcy lawyers offer a free consultation. This may seem like a good deal on the surface, providing an opportunity to meet with an attorney and get valuable guidance to help you decide whether bankruptcy is right for you.
As a bankruptcy lawyer for over 27 years, I can tell you that the free bankruptcy consultation is an utter waste of your time. I could go so far as to call it a scam, but you can be the judge of that. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
Free Consultations Are a Psychological Sales Pitch
To do their job, an attorney needs to earn an income; that income is typically generated by client work. A free consultation, therefore, is often just a sales pitch.
By providing free consultations, the lawyer uses a tried-and-true sales tactic known as reciprocity to get you to sign on as a client and file for bankruptcy. By giving something with a high perceived value – here, the lawyer’s time and a little bit of information – you’re more likely to feel obligated to hire the attorney to represent you in a bankruptcy case.
Remember, however, that lawyers make money only when they’re paid for their expertise. And because every person who attends a free consultation is unlikely to file for bankruptcy, lawyers must conduct as many as possible to make the business model profitable.
For that reason, the lawyer who provides a free consultation is more likely to provide very little information and spend only a short time with you.
The Time Needed for an Individual Assessment
When you pay for an initial consultation, the bankruptcy lawyer isn’t hustling you out the door searching for their next paying client – you ARE that paying client. As someone willing to pay for the bankruptcy lawyer’s time and expertise, you are more likely to receive a complete assessment based on your specific needs and circumstances.
The lawyer will take the time to get to know you and your financial situation, which makes it more likely that you’ll get more complete and accurate advice. They will be more likely to take time to explain the potential downsides of filing for bankruptcy, answer your questions, and address your concerns.
Without the need to rush you out the door, you’ll have a better opportunity to get the information you need to make an informed decision about filing for bankruptcy. With a paid consultation, the lawyer will have more time to answer your questions and provide you with all the necessary information.
Free Consultations Yield Higher Legal Fees
There’s an old saying: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. It’s helpful to bear this in mind before seeking a free bankruptcy consultation with a lawyer.
Remember that lawyers who offer these consultations usually charge higher legal fees as a way to recoup their investment of unpaid time spent with many people who never become paying clients. By providing a service without any guarantee of future compensation, bankruptcy lawyers need to compensate for that lost revenue in other ways. As a result, those who do decide to move forward with the lawyer’s services may end up paying more in legal fees, adding to the financial burden of the bankruptcy process.
Always weigh the potential costs before proceeding with the service and evaluate if it’s worth the investment.
Get Serious About Solving Your Debt Problems
Paying for a consultation signals that you’re ready to make a serious commitment to getting out of debt. It also shows that you are serious about working with a lawyer and are willing to put in the effort to make it happen.
Charging for a consultation shows the lawyer values their own time and expertise, and is willing to provide valuable information to help you decide if bankruptcy is right for you. Rather than wasting your time with a free consultation that amounts to a high-pressure sales pitch, the lawyer will take the time to focus on solving your problem.
In conclusion, while a free consultation may seem like a good deal, a paid consultation is likely to be a better choice when discussing whether to file for bankruptcy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Since I became a lawyer in 1995, I’ve represented people with problems involving student loans, consumer debts, mortgage foreclosures, collection abuse, and credit reports. Instead of gatekeeping my knowledge, I make as much of it available at no cost as possible on this site and my other social channels. I wrote every word on this site.
I’ve helped thousands of federal and private student loan borrowers lower their payments, negotiate settlements, get out of default and qualify for loan forgiveness programs. My practice includes defending student loan lawsuits filed by companies such as Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. In addition, I’ve represented thousands of individuals and families in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. I currently focus my law practice solely on student loan issues.
I played a central role in developing the Student Loan Law Workshop, where I helped to train over 350 lawyers on how to help people with student loan problems. I’ve spoken at events held by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, National Association of Consumer Advocates, and bar associations around the country. National news outlets regularly look to me for my insights on student loans and consumer debt issues.
I’m licensed to practice law in New York and California and advise federal student loan borrowers nationwide.