At our office, every caller gets an opportunity to speak to a lawyer at no charge. We provide a free consultation. On occasion, we provide free advice, however a consultation is a discussion of how a case will precede, not advice on how to handle your own case.
The reason we don't provide advice is that advice from a lawyer about a criminal matter is basically useless. As a result, it does not serve the caller to provide it. Very few criminal cases can be handled without an attorney. I am well aware many people with whom I speak cannot afford to hire a lawyer, and as a result I even explain to them how to apply for a public defender.
When you call a lawyer you deserve to be treated well, but that does not mean that when a lawyer advertises a “free consultation” that a person can call and simply ask the lawyer questions with no intention of hiring a lawyer whatsoever. Lawyers are in the business of selling legal services.
Two recent examples have caused me to post this blog. A person called this week with “a quick question.” I happily took the call and learned that they were facing serious charges that required legal help. After explaining that he needed an attorney and did not have a quick question, the response was: “your website says I can call and get a free consultation and now you will not talk to me.”
No one is entitled to someone else's time, and as an attorney I am not required to talk to anyone. Lawyers are not in indentured servitude to any offer to speak to people who call. Without mutual respect the offer is withdrawn. Lawyers are also not required to speak to people who have no intention of seeking the legal help they need. I very often speak to people and provide free advice, but I will not give someone advice on a matter they cannot handle themselves.
Why shouldn't a lawyer give free advice if they choose?
An ethical note to fellow attorneys and warning: You should consider that, under the ethics rules, you can be held responsible for the advice you give to people who never hired you. When you give correct advice to someone who incorrectly applies it, you may be accused of giving the wrong advice. When a person needs an attorney, do not provide that person any forms, letters, ALS appeal letters, or tips on speaking to the prosecutor. The only answer should be, hire a lawyer or apply for a public defender.
You can be held responsible when, as a nice person, you supply a form to a non-lawyer and they file it wrong or miss a filing deadline. When the bar complaint comes, those instructions you gave will be somehow completely forgotten. It is in your interest and the other party's interest to hire a lawyer.
This is exactly why when you call your doctor, the recording says: “if you are having an emergency hang up and call 911: The doctors understand their ethical responsibility when they give out information over the phone. The doctors also are keenly aware of their potential liability. Please remember yours.
The second afore-mentioned example was a person who wanted to know if there was a warrant for his arrest. After explaining that he could hire us to look into it, his response was to ask if his fee would be returned if there was no warrant. I explained no, and then he hung up. He didn't respect my time or what I had to offer.
Lawyers are not charities. If you have a legal problem, we can help. However, many people hire attorneys to look into criminal and civil matters that turn out not to be problems needing an attorney. Lawyers only have their time, experience, and advice to sell. If you order extra food at the table and it goes uneaten, that is not the restaurant's fault, and no one would expect the restaurant to take the food off the bill. Think carefully before you hire an attorney because once hired the attorney will charge you for his time. Our Atlanta Traffic Ticket Lawyers and Atlanta DUI Lawyers are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call Now!