When I first opened up my law practice, I did not charge for initial consultations. Other “lawpreneurs” and advisers always told me that the biggest business mistake is not charging enough for your services. Figuring out the fees for your business is a really tricky thing, especially in the legal field. However, when I dropped my car off at the mechanic’s because of a funny sound, they charged me to do an evaluation. I didn’t blink at it; they were taking the time to look at my car and diagnose what the problem was.
That’s when it hit me!
When I do a consultation for a client, I’ve done a lot of work to prepare for the meeting, only to meet with a prospective client who didn’t value my time or legal advice. So now we are charging for the initial consultation, but this isn’t just a business decision. This allows us to provide so much more value to our clients!
1. Our consultations are educational
Unfortunately, our legal system for “dying” is really complex and not straightforward. Some prospective clients are not happy about the complexity or get frustrated when they do not understand the rules. We did not draft the laws; we only help our clients navigate them. I’ve joked with many clients that dying takes a lot of work! But knowledge is empowering, and we want our clients to be empowered so that they can set themselves and their families up for success. Death is inevitable and unpredictable, there is no reason not to plan ahead. In our initial consultation, we explain how the probate process works, how trusts work, how Wills work, and whether an estate tax will apply to your situation. You will leave our consultation with a better understanding of the laws and how they would affect your family if you passed away.
2. Legal Advice and Strategy to Accomplish Your Goals
Before our consultation begins, we ask prospective clients to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire provides us with the basic information that we need in order to make recommendations about your estate plan. Your estate plan encompasses your finances, your family, and your health. We spend 30 minutes to an hour analyzing the information that you provide. We create a spreadsheet of your assets from a probate perspective, and we give recommendations on what to do with each of your assets to avoid probate. We will make a list of questions that we feel we should discuss further with you. Our initial meeting is not a fact-finding mission, it is a genuine conversation about your family dynamics, your health, and your concerns. From this conversation and the pre-consultation preparation, we are able to give you legal advice. Our goal is to provide you with a solid strategy based upon our legal advice to accomplish your estate planning goals.
3. Attorney’s Full Attention
When you pay for a consultation, the attorney has already done her homework before you even meet. Then, in the meeting, she can give her full attention to your conversation. She is not feeling rushed to move on to the next meeting. By charging for our initial consultations, we are eliminating the prospective clients who are shopping around or trying to get the best deal. Paying for a consultation guarantees you the full attention of the attorney. And because you have already paid for our time, we are not giving you a sales pitch, we are having a conversation. We take the time to listen to you and give you ample opportunities to ask questions!
4. Are We a Good Fit For You?
In the past, we have done half-hour “meet and greet” meetings where we do not give any legal advice or education. We briefly explained our process and tried to get to know the prospective client. This always left us with an uneasy feeling. We felt that the clients were trying to get free legal advice, and it took up a lot of our energy not to let the conversation turn legal. Furthermore, it was never enough time to really get a good feel for whether our personalities were a good match. When you pay for a consultation, you know the attorney has your attention, and the attorney is more relaxed because there is no ”sales” pitch. The consultations are much more productive when those factors are removed from the conversation. And sometimes our firm isn’t a good fit. That’s ok! We give recommendations for other attorneys regularly. We are very collaborative and are happy to refer clients to other attorneys who would better serve you.
5. Are You Serious About Planning Ahead?
We love to have fun, and we laugh a lot in our office. But we take our jobs very seriously. The best referral we receive is when a client refers another friend or family member to us. We have a passion to help as many people as possible avoid the probate process and make the loss of a loved one less stressful. Therefore, we want to be able to focus on our clients who are serious about planning ahead as well. Our clients understand we are handling very important and personal matters, and we want to have the time to best serve our clients who appreciate this.
6. This Is Our Livelihood
Unlike what we learn in law school, a law firm is a business. Our time and knowledge of the legal process is how we pay ourselves and support our families. If you are coming to us, you’ve recognized that you alone cannot properly plan for your death. The understanding and implementation of a solid estate plan is beyond your area of expertise. We work with clients who understand this. If you are looking to just pick a plan off a shelf and get out of the store, then we might not be the best fit for you. However…
7. We Have Options!
We understand that not everyone has the cash flow to justify a consultation fee or even the cost of an individually tailored estate plan. We have developed two different programs to help as many people as possible get their plan done. The first is our Pro Bono Program. We have information on our website about this and who qualifies for this. We also have our Wills in A WeekSM program. This program is for clients who do not have an estate tax liability or do not have concerns about family members, among other criteria. It’s a basic program that is an educational webinar with a live Q&A. This is for the people who want to set themselves up for success but do not need a lot of hand-holding.
Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Please check out our website for more information about our programs, along with some tidbits about our firm. Also, sign up to receive our newsletter to stay informed of upcoming events and educational articles about estate planning.
Copyright © 2023 Ladimer Law Office PC
209 West Central Street
Natick, MA 01760
Ladimer Law specializes in estate planning. We protect our clients, their heirs, and their assets by listening closely, knowing the law, and executing estate plans that fit and evolve.