Contacting a Lawyer – The Difference Between Free Initial Consultation and Free Legal Advice
Many law firms, including ours, offer free initial consultations. People sometimes mistake “free initial consultation” as meaning “free legal advice.” Free initial consultation with a lawyer is not the same as free legal advice.
As lawyers handling criminal or disciplinary cases, we should not, and do not, offer free legal advice to someone who is not our client after a short telephone call or email exchange. That would be very ill-informed and dangerous for both the attorney and the caller, and could even be unethical, depending upon the situation.
Initial consultations are simply meant as an introduction between the caller and the attorney. It allows the attorney to hear basic information about the case from the caller’s perspective, and to have a general discussion about the case and the legal system so both the attorney and the caller can make decisions about whether the attorney would be a good fit for the case. Only after hiring an attorney would the caller – who is now an actual client – receive the attorney’s legal advice.
Legal advice is professional advice given by an attorney to his/her client based on the attorney’s education, training, and experience, and based on the evidence, facts of the case, and legal issues. Legal advice is not given as a quick, knee-jerk, reaction to a brief one-sided account given by someone who, before the phone call or email, was a complete stranger to the attorney.
You would not expect, for example, to call a doctor out of the blue, tell him/her that you have pain in your side, and have the doctor just blurt out that you have liver cancer and will need major surgery – all without doing any medical evaluation of the case. That is roughly equivalent to a person calling a lawyer, briefly explaining the situation to the lawyer from the caller’s perspective, and then asking the lawyer “What are my defenses? What would be our strategy? What are my chances? What should I do?” Such legal advice cannot be determined based on a quick initial consultation.
Initial consultations are important for the attorney-client relationship, and as a beginning discussion between attorney and potential client. That is why we offer free initial consultations. We want to meet you and to hear about the criminal, disciplinary, or adverse action case you’re facing in the military. Initial consultations should not be approached as an opportunity to receive free legal advice, however.
Here is an Article about the difference between initial consultation and legal advice: https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/consultation-vs-legal-advice-what-s-the-difference-#:~:text=A%20consultation%20is%20actually%20for,case%2C%20or%20decline%20representation%20altogether
Hopefully this explanation clears up any confusion. The legal advice you receive should be thorough and well-informed. That happens within the attorney-client relationship.