Legal Consultation vs. Legal Services
Is There a Difference Between Legal Consultation and Legal Services?
If you’ve ever called a lawyer because something bad happened, or, if you are being proactive and just want to have a lawyer you trust up front, you’ve likely had an attorney tell you that they will provide a free consultation prior to signing an engagement letter. But what is a consultation? Is it the same as legal services? The answer might surprise you.
A legal consultation is NOT the same as legal services. Many times, the initial consultation is not only an opportunity for a client to get to know a lawyer, but also an opportunity for the attorney to ensure there is no conflict, determine if they feel comfortable with the case, and to see if the client is someone they would like to represent. During the consultation, the attorney will find out the who, what, when, where and why of your situation, and may also walk through a few different general approaches and outcomes which they will base on their experience and industry standards. A great attorney, will also triage your problem and let you know if this is something you can address yourself or if it is in your best interest to retain counsel. Once that meeting is over, more often than not, you will need to sign an engagement letter and a retainer agreement before you can talk to the lawyer again. It is rare to find a situation where you will get to have another consultation without paying the legal services fees.
Depending on the firm you are working with, the term “legal services” will vary. Some see anything the attorney does after the initial consultation, if one is even offered, as a legal service. Whether its advice, guidance, research, communication, document review, filings, or any of the many other things attorneys do for their clients, they will charge you the lawyer’s hourly rate for any time the spent on your situation. Other firms, such as at Lonzo Law, don’t define legal services that way. This group believes that there are specific services that attorneys are specially trained to do, especially when it comes to litigation, specialized documents, or circumstances when an opposing interest has retained an attorney. But we also understand that many times a client, especially a small or mid-sized business client, just wants to ask a quick question from someone with more experience and knowledge, get an answer, and not receive a large bill.
How Do I Know if I am Getting Legal Consultation or Legal Services?
While we can’t speak with certainty about other firms, we can generally say that the services you will be receiving and the rate you will be charged should be found in your engagement letter. This should outline how you will be billed (six minute intervals, fifteen minute intervals, flat rate, etc.), how much you will be billed per hour, and when you will receive bills (end of month, as services are rendered, etc.). If your engagement letter doesn’t specify different rates for different types of circumstances, you either have been informed you need legal services or are at a firm that only provides legal services; either way, you will pay the full hourly rate for all of the time a lawyer spends on your case file, including all communications.
Where Can I Get Legal Consultation Services?
The idea of providing legal consultation services at a lesser rate than standard legal services is a newer concept, so not all firms provide this option or understand how to implement it. At Lonzo Law, we provide these services through our Better Call Counsel membership. This program allows a business to receive up to one hour of legal consultation services with an attorney each month for less than half the cost of an hour of legal services. These members can use this time to seek guidance and ask questions about business law, which the lawyer will address based on his or her experiences and best practices. The attorneys will also be honest when informing the member if they think the problem can be internally addressed or if it requires the special training of an attorney. If an attorney is needed, Lonzo Law gives a $50 an hour discount to all of our Better Call Counsel members for any legal service hours they do need.
Which Do I Need?
Every situation is different and every firm and attorney approaches billing differently. Therefore, we highly recommend you reach out to multiple attorneys to see who you trust, meets your billing needs, and provides the access you are looking for from your legal counselor. If you would like to speak more with Lonzo Law about our Better Call Counsel membership or the other ways we provide legal consultation and/or legal services, please schedule a free consultation with one of our legal counselors or fill out an info sheet and someone from our office will reach out to you to set-up a time.