Yesterday, a potential client did not show up for the free consultation they had scheduled. Today, one person did not show up for the free consultation that had been scheduled. Another potential client did not show up for a meeting they had scheduled, after putting down the deposit we require when someone misses their free consultation.
Those three people are now crying because I will not take their cases.
Let me explain — because if you are reading this blog because you’ve heard that I’m a good attorney, and you’re interested in hiring me, you’ll want to know how to avoid being stuck with your second, third, or fourth choice for an attorney.
Running a law office takes more than a little bit of effort. It’s not like I just show up and magical things happen.
But, seriously, there are investigations to be done. There are crime scenes to visit. There are jail visits to make. Not to mention the daily court appearances, but I don’t schedule potential clients during those times anyway.
Some offices don’t provide free consultations (although I think many, if not most, do). I provide free consultations in my office; I don’t do consultations over the phone, except with extremely rare exceptions — typically if I do a phone consult at all, it will be with someone who lives more than a hundred miles from Fresno, but somehow picked up a case in Fresno.
In any event, after several years of frustration over people who make appointments and then don’t show, I implemented a policy to try to prevent it. The policy is that everyone gets one free consultation. We schedule that consultation for the date and time that you pick, so long as it fits into a time when I’m actually in the office. In other words, you can’t have an appointment at 1 a.m. on Thursday because that’s when you get off from work. If you miss that appointment, well, that was your free consultation. I was sitting here waiting for you to show up. Sure, I may have been doing some reading, or something, but I wasn’t visiting a client in the jail to discuss his or her case. I wasn’t visiting a crime scene. I wasn’t completing an investigation. I wasn’t at the law library checking on something that I couldn’t find in my own office library.
I was waiting.
If you miss your free appointment, and you still want to meet with me — because, after all, you’ve been told that I’m the only attorney to whom you should be talking — then you can pay a small deposit (at this writing, it is $100). If you show up, and end up hiring me, I apply it toward your bill. If you don’t show up, that money is mine, for keeping your appointment time open, and waiting for you.
Everyone is told about this policy up front. My office manager, when scheduling, asks people to call if something comes up, so they can reschedule. We understand things come up. So long as you call ahead of time — not five minutes ahead of time, but far enough ahead that I can schedule something else, like a visit to a crime scene — you still get a chance to talk to me for free at some future appointment. If something comes up for me, we also contact people at the earliest moment to give them a heads up.
The majority of people who don’t show up, though, never call. They either don’t show up at all, or they show up an hour, two hours, three hours late. I’ve even once had someone with an 11 a.m. appointment show up at 5 p.m., just as we’re shutting the office for the day.
It’s not happening anymore.
As I said, we already have changed the policy regarding free consultations if you don’t show up. We now have another policy: after you pay us for a consultation, and then you still don’t show up, you have to go find another lawyer. You don’t get another appointment.
I fight hard for my clients. My client reviews show that. My reputation shows that. Other attorneys will even tell you that. But if your case is so unimportant to you that you cannot make it in to talk to me when your consultation is free, then your case isn’t important enough to require an attorney with my qualifications.
There are plenty of attorneys who will take your money, and then never really pay attention to you, or work on your case. I’m not one of those attorneys.
And I’m not going to sit around my office anymore waiting for people to show up so I can talk to them for free.