What to Expect from a Free Initial Consultation

Cohen & Winters offers a free consultation for potential clients thinking about hiring us. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the free initial consultation:

How Can I Get a Free Consultation?

You can either call our office during business hours or you can submit information on our contact us form. One of our intake coordinators will contact you and will get some general information about you and your situation before scheduling a time to speak with one of our attorneys. The intake coordinator is not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice so you should not go into great detail about your case when you speak with her. Just give enough information for us to have a sense of the type of legal help you need.

What is the Purpose of the Free Consultation?

Hiring a lawyer is a big decision. Through the free consultation we give a potential client the chance to get to know us before deciding whether we are a good fit. Some people aren’t sure if they even need a lawyer. Others can’t afford to hire a lawyer but as a service to the community, we still offer them some valuable information at no-cost.

Can It Be About Any Legal Subject Matter?

No. There are many areas of the law that we have little to no experience in. We focus on three practice areas: criminal defense (including DWI and all motor vehicle issues), personal injury, and family law.  If you are not sure whether we can help you, don’t hesitate to contact us and we will let you know. In some cases we may have to refer you to a different law firm that is more experienced with your particular problem.

Is the Consultation Confidential?

Yes! Many people are understandably worried about this. They know that if they hire a lawyer, everything they tell the lawyer is confidential, but they don’t know about talking to a lawyer that they haven’t hired. Fortunately, the Rules of Professional Ethics deal with this. Specifically, Rule 1.18 says that when a potential client gives a lawyer information, the lawyer must keep that information confidential just the same as with a retained client.

Keep in mind that there are limits to confidentiality. Most notably if someone else is present during the communication, whatever is said is not protected by attorney confidentiality. It is generally advisable to have your first conversation with a lawyer be without others present.

How Long Will It Be?

We limit our free initial consultations to half an hour, during which time we will discuss options for hiring us. In some cases, if necessary to fully understand a complicated situation, we may in our discretion allow more time during the free consultation phase. You will be notified if we intend to charge for our time during the initial consultation.

Generally Your Consultation Will Be Over the Phone

We have found that it is often most convenient for the first consultation to take place over the phone. This is because there are many reasons why a case may not be appropriate for us to work on. Perhaps it is not in our practice area, perhaps the fee is greater than the potential client can afford, or perhaps we have a conflict of interest. Also, we can usually schedule telephone consultations faster than office consultations. So instead of wasting unnecessary time it is often better to have the initial free consultation over the phone and then go from there if it seems like a case we can work on.

When Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

Most people call us after they discover they have a legal issue that requires some legal advice. There are some people who have been contacted by the police who want to “get their side of the story,” or “clear up some questions.” In this situation we strongly advise you to contact a lawyer before you speak with any police officer. This is true regardless of whether you feel you have something to hide, or not. Whenever you speak with a police officer you take the chance the you might say something the wrong way and your statements, whether they are written, recorded, or just spoken by you can always be used against you. It is always advisable to understand your risk before you agree to talk about  your situation.

How Can I Best Prepare for the Consultation?

Think in advance over how to succinctly, but accurately summarize the situation. If there is a court date scheduled, try to have the hearing notice with you, which will state the name of the court and the type of hearing. Also try to have any other paperwork in front of you. On other hand, don’t wait to schedule the consultation just because you can’t find all the right paperwork or aren’t sure about the exact best way to present your case. We want the consultation to be as productive as possible but we don’t want you to delay trying to hire a lawyer for too long if you actually do need one.

Will There be Pressure to Hire the Lawyer?

Absolutely not! Most people who need to hire us are going through enough stress and don’t need a pushy lawyer adding any more to it. Frankly, it’s just not good business for us to push our services. And we don’t need to. Our reputation in the community, based on our long track record of appreciative clients, tends to “sell itself.”

Why is the Consultation Free?

First and foremost, we just feel it is the right thing to do. The services we provide are so personality driven that it doesn’t seem right to ask someone to spend their hard earned money on us without getting a feel for who we are.

Second, we feel it’s a an important service to the community to provide legal advice to people who otherwise might not be able to get any.

Third, and inherently related to the above, is it is an incredible way to grow our practice. Every week we talk to potential clients who have cases we don’t take, or who don’t hire us for one reason or another. Yet, we give them our thoughts on their situation, we stay in touch, we send them our e-newsletter. They may see our name pop up in the community, through word of mouth, or online. And down the road, they may know someone who does need our services. The amount of word of mouth clients who find us this way is incredibly gratifying.

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