Why Won’t a Lawyer Just Give Me Free Legal Advice or Representation?

 You visit your local grocery store.  You pick up the items on your list and make your way to the checkout counter.  There you ask the cashier to “let you slide this time”.  Or envision calling an auto mechanic and seeking a free detailed explanation of the tools and tasks needed to change your own oil.  Imagine a contractor building a small set of steps for your home and you asking him to waive the bill.  Are any of these reasonable expectations?  Probably not.  It costs money to provide the goods, supplies, or services mentioned in my examples.  Plus in most licensed professions and occupations it costs time and money obtain the degrees and licenses required to [legally] provide services.  So why do so many people expect lawyers to routinely provide advice and services for free??

Every legal scenario is different and must be assessed on its facts.  A lawyer will often need documents, witnesses, and other information before she can provide an opinion on your case.  A thorough review of a legal scenario takes time which means to provide your consultation the lawyer must step away from working on cases for existing clients.  In essence, you are replacing someone else’s time.  

For certain types of cases (ex:  family law, employment law) lawyers routinely charge a consultation fee.  But some attorneys will credit your consultation fee toward the cost of you hiring the attorney for representation.  There are options for a free legal consultation or representation (ex:  NC Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont).  Several general information pamphlets are available at http://ncbar.org/public-pro-bono/publication and many local public libraries.  But beware of legal info on the Internet especially at answer boards, chat rooms, and online communities. 

Sometimes it is best to pay some money up front to be well-advised and well-protected.  The alternative is taking the time and energy to do it yourself and risk making a costly mistake.  If the stakes are high and you stand to lose a lot do not be afraid to pay for someone’s experience and expertise to help you.  It could be some of the best money you ever spent.  -OLO

NOTE:  For a free consultation regarding your legal matter contact Attorney John O’Neal of the O’Neal Law Office.


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