Part Three: The Mess of Free Legal Consultations – And How to Clean It Up.

free legal consultations

Part Three: Systems are your friend

Life as a family law attorney can be chaotic and stressful. Don’t make it worse on yourself by losing control of your time. Free legal consultations take up a lot of time. You can – and should – rely on systems as a way to stay organized, lessen noise, and reduce stress. Systems in business allow us to save time, make more money, and reduce liability. Systems provide the client with a better experience, making them more likely to hire you now and refer you later. Systems make hard things feel like less work – saving your energy for more important matters. If you aren’t convinced, consider this – Steve Jobs wore the same thing every day so that he expended no energy on choosing an outfit. Look what he did with the system he created!  

Whether or not you own a black turtleneck, systems can become your friend. Free legal consultations, in particular, can be unpredictable, stressful, and high liability. See our articles for setting goals and creating synergy to get started on an effective consultation process.  

Once you have decided what type of consultations you will offer, create a structure for each consultation.  Whatever time you are allocating to the consultation, divide it into three categories: (1) getting the client booked; (2) structuring the meeting time; and (3) following up.  

First, build a seamless intake. Implement an online booking system if possible, as many clients today are used to making appointments with a swipe. Present your consultation options (scope, time and budget) at the outset, be clear about cancellation policies, and send a text or email follow up to remind the client of the appointment, including a reminder to bring their fee and anything else they’ll need.  An online intake system means you have to spend almost no time booking potential clients. Win. If you still prefer a real, live person, your real, live person should have all the efficiency of the online system (a simple explanation of what type of consultations you offer, what they cost, and when you’re available). 

Second, create a system within the consultation with an agenda for free legal consultations. How can you have an agenda without knowing in advance what the client will throw at you? Easy. Work the deliverable into your agenda rather than centralizing the deliverable. As an example, your client may indicate that their goal for consultation is knowing whether they’ll owe spousal support. They’ll be able to relax and focus if you can say, “Great. Typically in these consultations, I’ll go through x, y, and z, which will include an overview of support obligations. Does this work for you?” Also, use your agenda. It will keep you organized and on your timeline (remember, time is a major component of a successful system). 

Third, after every consultation, send a written follow up. Have an easily customizable template email for each type of consultation. Example: “Dear _____, thank you for attending a brief ‘meet and greet’ today with Attorney x. You’re looking for an attorney who is ________ and ________ for your divorce matter. We’d like to invite you to become a client by {taking these steps}. We’d also like to remind you {insert your disclaimers}.” Aim to complete a follow up email in less than 10% of the consultation time. Clients love getting the added value of a follow up, particularly in complex or emotional matters. Written records provide reminders if the client engages you, by providing a short overview of their matter and re- amilliarize you with the client, making them feel valued and remembered when they return. In the event of a future disputea written follow up can lessen your liability. A written follow up serves the client, serves the lawyer, and lessens liability.  

Your consultation system can be as flexible or rigid as you like. Try something out, and don’t be afraid to refine it. Once you have systems in place, particularly with the potential chaos of family law consultations, you will be amazed at the difference they make.  

Erika Englund is a former divorce attorney with over five thousand hours of negotiation experience. Currently, she is the Chief of Strategy for SupportPay, the only platform designed to help parents manage child support payments and expenses between each other. Erika Englund is also divorced, happily (most of the time – she’s not perfect) co-parenting two young children in Northern California. 
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