Uncloaking The Free Consultation In A Baltimore Personal Injury Case
For many years, I have extended to my prospective or potential clients, or those that are simply contacting me about a general legal question the benefit of a complimentary case analysis and evaluation and strategy session. In common parlance, this is often referred to as a similar service, offered by other local Baltimore area personal injury lawyers, and is often referred to as a “free consultation.”
What are the goals of a free Personal Injury Consultation?
Whatever the process is called, I have three games aims.
- To gather the important factual and legal details from the inquirer
- To analyze, apply and synthesize those factual details against potential legal claims
- To recommend a course of action that achieves the potential client’s objectives
I am frequently asked why a business would offer anything for free. It’s counterintuitive. Businesses are in business to make money. Free services don’t make money. They do the opposite. So what gives? As a practical matter, the practice of law is perhaps the most highly regulated profession on the planet. Businesses operating in non-legal professions offer incentives to draw in customers: sales, coupons, buy-one-get-one-free discounts, referral fees, rebates. These are all great marketing mechanisms available others. Typically, personal injury lawyers are prohibited from using common marketing techniques available to every other business. In light of this, one answer to the question would be that the free consultation process is simply a marketing ploy, or a way to get a customer in the door or to whet the appetite wet. That is not the reason that I offer and have always extended a complimentary case analysis, evaluation and strategy session. I use the lingo in this discussion, i.e. a free consultation, that is commonly used to describe the concept [in my practice, historically referred to as a complementary case analysis, evaluation, and strategy meeting] with the client for the prospective client.
What does a potential client gain from a free Personal Injury Consultation?
What are the expectations? The time involved can range anywhere from a 5 to 10 minute phone conference, to a half hour to 45 minute detailed discussion, depending on the circumstances. In my view, the length of the discussion is really immaterial. It’s the result of this conference that counts. My purpose is to always employ the tools that I have learned and gathered in 30 years as an injury an accident lawyer, and apply them to the unique circumstances and facts presented by the potential client.
Once certain, basic information is obtained, I can identify and briefly explain legal concepts that apply to that factual scenario, or that flow from it. For example:
- What claims might the individual have if they’re calling about a personal injury matter
- What defenses a person might have if they’re inquiring about a criminal defense matter
In the arena of Baltimore personal injury and car accident claims, the discussion often centers on the final phase in the analysis – the “money” phase, if you will. This is, in many cases, the very reason why the potential client has made the inquiry in the first instance. In my view, an opinion as to the value, or likely return on a case, especially one given only hours or days after an accident does not have much weight. Many things can change. I have always felt it is the recommendation phase t where I can offer the greatest service to the prospective client. Here, after gleaning the necessary information, and analyzing it, in light of the relevant and pertinent legal concepts, I’m in a position to give a recommendation for a course of action, and in some instances, successive or sequential courses of action. Let me add a parenthetical remark here. During the inquiry phase of the case analysis, I frequently ask a lot of questions. Many times these questions do not seem directly germane to the inquiry, but I can assure you they all have a purpose, and it might not be obvious to the inquirer. It is my firm belief that every potential client, or general inquirer, wishes to have their legal dilemma solved as quickly as possible, and I try to deliver that service. When I pepper someone with questions, the intent of the course is not to interrupt their narrative, or be disrespectful of their story, but rather to glean and gather important details, that might have great legal significance, but might not necessarily seem important to the story.
By way of illustration, please assume that a potential client has made an inquiry regarding their being ripped off by someone who has sold them a product that was not as advertised, or, as sometimes happens, took someone’s money, and failed to deliver any product at all. There may well be a variety of legal claims that are present or arise as a result of this transaction. For example, the injured person, or the person who has lost their money, may pursue a breach of contract action. If the seller of the shoddy goods, or, the thief of the money, made representations, there could also be a fraud claim in the works. No doubt either of those claims would be successful and obtain relief for the injured person. However, there might be other, additional guidance, that the inquirer would want to know. For example, in these situations, consumer protection legislation may come into play. Here, a victim of such conduct may be able to avail themselves to the fee-shifting provisions found in consumer protection statutes, so that not only do they get back what they lost, but they are truly made whole. In other words, such legislation shifts responsibility for fees and costs to the bad actor, so the wronged party does not bear them. In injure person is able to get back not only what they lost, but also any litigation fees and costs that they might incur in obtaining that relief.
While I think there has been a historic preference for the in-person, free, complimentary case analysis and strategy session [and indeed, that has been the historic service offered in my practice], Covid-19, has changed the world we live in many ways, and this process is certainly one of them. While I always strive to give the inquirer the most economical, efficient, and comprehensive answer possible, under the circumstances, I have found that it is possible to address some matters with a phone conference. Some other cases might be better suited to a video conference through a remote platform, such as Zoom. In other instances, the more traditional live in-person conference would be more appropriate.