Free Orientation vs. Free Consultation

Recently, we’ve evolved our thinking on the type of introductory experience we wish potential clients to have. Previously, we touted the fact that we offered a free initial consultation. Why free? Well, conflicts can be complex and scary. Many people who find themselves in a serious conflict haven’t had the experience before. They may have been served notice of a pending lawsuit or the other party may be threatening to hire an attorney and sue. Part of our role is to help demystify the court system. No one should be afraid of a system that was created for the benefit of everyone.

Another part of our rationale was that we believe that giving legal advice over the phone is not a wise practice. There are just too many variables and, thus, too many risks. Without having the opportunity to sit face-to-face and talk about the specifics of your conflict, and yes that involves us asking some very direct questions, there is a chance that some important factor might be overlooked.

The larger motivation for our “free” offer was self-serving – mediation and collaborative law are not for everyone. By offering a “free” initial consultation, our mediators/participating attorneys have the ability to interview potential clients as much as you are interviewing us. We readily disclose that the initial meeting is an opportunity for all of us to get a handle on the situation, explore options for resolution and, most importantly, establish the requisite comfort and trust level from which to build a strong experience for all.

The problem with offering a free consultation, however, is that it might create a false expectation for our first meeting. Yes, we want to hear about your conflict and yes, we want to be able to offer relative advice and counsel as to options for resolution. Because there are no guarantees that we can help or that you will want to use our services, the lack of cost makes this a risk-free experience for potential clients.

But, we cannot usually solve your conflict in that initial conversation.

Our thinking and approach are evolving. Now, we offer a free initial orientation. What’s the difference? Let’s start with what hasn’t changed. First, the initial meeting is still risk-free for the potential client. We still want to understand the basics of your conflict and we still want for you to have the chance to interview us.

The difference is that the focus will be much more on the processes we use to achieve resolution so that you’ll be fully aware of your options. Most people understand the traditional adversarial, courtroom focused approach to conflict resolution. And, while many people have heard of mediation, not many have actually experienced it. As for Collaborative Law, an even smaller number of people have heard of this approach and fewer still have experienced it. As a result, so that you can make an informed decision, we believe it is critical for us to explain the wide range of processes, approaches and tools available to help you achieve resolution.

We hope that this shift in focus will help our potential clients to more fully recognize the many benefits of alternative dispute resolution. Thanks for reading.

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