I recently read an article about a Canadian Divorce Lawyer who charges $2,500 prior to his initial consultation.  I could not tell from the article whether that amount was for the initial consult, of if he was charging a flat fee for the entire divorce case.  But the article did describe a lengthy consultation process, including the completion of a survey, a multi-media presentation, and parting gifts for the client, including a 2 hour dvd, a cd-rom of the initial interview (with a disclaimer), and an indication of whether the client was a "A" Client (yes, we’ll take your case) or a "D" Client (Sorry, but here are names of other lawyers who might be willing to represent  you.

While this certainly won’t work in most divorce practices, it does raise several questions:

  1. If an attorney charges a reduced fee or no fee at all for the initial consultation, is the attorney under-cutting herself? 
  2. What is the purpose of the initial consult?  Is it a "get to know you" or are you providing significant information and developing strategy?
  3. How do you handle the prospective client who might be "shopping", or worse yet, looking to conflict out attorneys from representing his spouse.

These are only a few of the questions which come to my mind.

Recently, I have had discussions with several lawyers and the question arises as to whether it makes sense to charge a premium for the initial consult.  At least in my case, I spend 60-90 minutes with the new client, get a lot of information, give my 15-20 minute "shpiel" on the process, and begin to develop a strategy with the client.   The client’s expectations are discussed and formed.  It is very valuable time. 

Not necessarily in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania, but in some other locales, I have heard of initial consult fees ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.  Does this make sense?  I don’t know, but it is something to think about.