My friend, and podcast co-host, Erik Mazzone has a great law practice management site. Yesterday he posted an article arguing against free initial consultations. His contention is that doing free consults covers up a larger problem – an inability to close the sale.
I disagree. I think free consults reveal a different problem – a lack of leads. And free consults are, in my opinion, a legitimate tactic for generating leads. It’s a free sample.
I was at the farmer’s market recently. Someone handed me a sample of turkey jerky. I liked it. I bought some. Would I have bought it without trying it first? What if a great “closer” had explained how delicious it would be? Nope, not me. But after a free sample I was sold (you should try it, you’d be surprised).
Free consults give the prospective client a chance to meet you, listen to your advice and decide if you’re the right lawyer for them. It might be the only way to get them in the door in the first place.
Now, if you do a bunch of free consults and can’t close the deal, then you do have the problem Erik discusses. You won’t, however, know if you have that problem until you have some prospects and attempt to close.
Would I do free consults? No. Why not? Because I can stay booked charging a fee. I also think that it’s much harder to close a sale when you do a free consult and that the quality of the client tends to be lower. But, if I didn’t have people lined up for a consult then I wouldn’t hesitate to do it for free.
One thing to consider when doing a free consult is whether the time would have been better spent doing a meeting with a referral source in an effort to generate paying consults. I suppose I’d rather do referral source meetings than free consults if I had people on my list and wasn’t facing a cash flow crisis.
Usually, Erik is right. This time? Think turkey jerky.