Why an Attorney Will Not Give You Legal Advice in a FREE Consultation
When considering this question, the first thing to clarify is the difference between advice and information.
Advice: as defined by online Find Law states, “Legal advice refers to the written or oral counsel about a legal matter that would affect the rights and responsibilities of the person receiving the advice. In addition, actual legal advice requires careful analysis of the law as it applies to a person’s specific situation—as opposed for speculation based on generic facts.” Here an attorney would learn the specific facts of a client’s case and do research to determine how best to proceed. Often just getting ready for a case is very time-consuming. Too, as a case proceeds, there would be a number of times an attorney would advise his or her client on issues relating to that particular case.
Information: as defined by Dictionary.com is “knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance” In the instance of a free consultation, this could refer to such issues as steps to follow in obtaining a divorce, what are the guidelines for child support in the person’s state of residence, how to file for bankruptcy, and how does the attorney work with a client regarding fees. Answers to these types of questions would be general to anyone needing answers and not specific to a particular person’s case needs, although some attorney fees may differ for different types of cases.
In looking at the differences between advice and information, there are several guidelines defining legal advice:
- Forms to be filled out are informational, while the actual filling out by an attorney needs advice.
- Viewing a state’s statutes can be done online by an individual, while an attorney researching and interpreting the guidelines to meet a specific person’s needs would result in advice.
- The legal definition of an issue such as divorce, child support, bankruptcy, alimony, or marital asset distribution is information. In contrast, legal interpretation of these issues pertaining to an individual’s personal concerns would result in advice.
- A listing of options as to how to proceed with a concern would be information, but an attorney’s opinion about what would be best in a specific individual’s concerns would be advice.
- Discussing the pros and cons of a potential litigation would be information. Advising a potential client as to exactly what litigation would be best would be advice
- Sometimes there is a fine line between advice and information. Still, in general, it can be said that information is knowledge available to any person with legal concerns, while advice will be specific facts related to the person who is inquiring.
A free consultation is provided by many attorney’s to help an individual understand what options are available, what becoming a client would cost, and a chance for the attorney and his or her potential client(s) to become acquainted and find out how working together would feel. It is not a time for an in-depth discussion of concerns, which an attorney would need time and related knowledge to be able to give advice. An attorney’s time and years of professional education are valuable, just like a doctor’s, contractor’s, accountant’s, and engineer’s. Advice should be paid for. An attorney providing information during a free consultation is pleased to do so. His or her advice, should a person become a client, requires professional compensation.
In addition to the deserved paying of fees for legal advice, it is also important to understand that if anything goes wrong during a case, an attorney might need to use their malpractice insurance. If the wrongdoing were caused by free advice, an attorney would have to compensate the client out-of-pocket. So, all in all, it is understandable that information, not advice, can be given during a free consultation.