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What’s the Difference between a Free Consultation and Free Legal Advice?

Our office receives many inquires every day from prospective clients. Many are severely ill or injured. These clients are often looking for an attorney to tell them what to do. Many are in a state of crisis and certainly need help. They want legal advice and answers now.

It’s always difficult to explain to prospective clients that the initial telephone consultation is not the time to give this type of information to a prospective client, especially in a telephone call. So it is important to understand how a free consultation works in a contingency case.

Discussions about more substantive legal issues frequently can only be discussed when the facts are more developed and medical and other records have been reviewed. Unfortunately, a free consultation is not a time for a prospective client to get in depth free legal advice and to pick the attorney’s brain on a myriad of technical medical-legal issues. Discussions about technical legal (or medical) matters cannot be answered until after the law firm is retained and facts and documents can be reviewed in depth – sometimes in consultation with experts and after a medical literature review.

Our receptionist or law clerk will take down a few general facts and then you will speak to an experienced attorney. Time periods are very strict in enforcing your rights in medical malpractice, personal injury and wrongful death cases of all types; and if you are suing a governmental entity such as a district hospital or the state, county, or city, they can be very short. An injured person may only have six calendar months to present a claim against a governmental entity. Section 340.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides both one-year and three-year statutes of limitations that protect healthcare providers; but there are many exceptions. Developing the facts, investigating, researching, securing documents, interviewing witnesses, both percipient and expert, preserving evidence, perpetuating testimony, applying the law to the facts, analyzing the issues, and coming to conclusions takes place after you become an actual client.

We will have a chance to get to know each other in the initial telephone consultation. We will either reject the case, ask for records from the prospective client, refer the client to other counsel that we know specializes in their type of case/fact pattern, or set an appointment to take more in depth information, and possibly to sign up the client for representation. We will then send every prospective client a letter confirming what, if any, legal responsibilities we have assumed.

Once we are retained (we sign an agreement to represent you), we will be able to give the client legal advise based upon the facts and documents and our ongoing investigation.

The purpose of the initial consultation is to explore the facts in a general way and to determine if we and the potential client want to proceed with a formal attorney-client relationship. All of the legal questions cannot be answered in a single initial consultation. The initial consultation is an opportunity to find out about the law firm while the law firm finds out about the client. Even so, once the relationship is established and there is sufficient information to do so, the lawyers can be expected to give you well grounded, specific, informative legal counsel on all related topics – and with all of our contingency cases, we only get paid a percentage of what you get once we achieve a settlement or are victorious in getting you an award of money.

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