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Why I Provide an Initial Consultation at No Charge

October 25, 2016  | 

{3:42 minutes to read} A couple of years ago, I was a member of a panel discussion regarding client intake in mediation and collaborative matters. The audience was primarily attorneys, and I mentioned that I provided an initial consultation at no charge. A matrimonial attorney, who probably had just a few more years experience than I, was incredulous. She said that she hadn’t given a free consultation since she was a “baby attorney.”

I guess I should have been insulted, but I wasn’t. I explained that when I represented individual clients in a matrimonial matter, I always billed for a consultation. At that meeting, we discussed substantive matters, and I provided valuable information over the course of a 1½- to 2-hour consultation.

When I started my mediation practice, on the other hand, I decided that I would provide an initial consultation at no charge for a process discussion of about a ½ hour. I continue to provide that service free-of-charge, because I think it is important to the clients, and it helps me in my practice. Here are some reasons why:

Most potential clients don’t know what mediation is all about.

I would say that the vast majority of phone calls I receive are from people who have heard of mediation and done some research online, but really don’t know how it works. In terms of furthering the practice of mediation, I think it’s good for as many people as possible to know the reality of what mediation entails and to get that information from an experienced mediator.

It’s an easy first step.

Even if potential clients know what mediation is and how it works, they may not be sure that it’s right for them. This consultation is an easy, no-commitment way to determine if mediation will be the best option for them and their children. Later, if they choose to mediate, they will have a level of buy-in from the knowledge they gained in the consultation that can help them through difficult conflicts.

It gives them an introduction to me, and me an introduction to them.

I can’t imagine deciding that you want to mediate with someone with whom you have only had a phone conversation, especially since it is likely that only one client would have made that call. It also provides me an opportunity to consider if mediation is appropriate for them and to get a feel for both parties’ level of commitment to and comfort with the process.

Before my very first meeting with potential mediation clients, I wrote a script which I narrowed down to an outline and kept under my notepad, as if I could surreptitiously glance at it to make sure I covered all the bases. Needless to say, I’ve become much more comfortable in these consultations since then.

But, the main reason I offer the free consultation to potential clients: I enjoy being able to share my knowledge and experience about a process that I truly believe is the best way for couples to obtain a separation or divorce.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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Comments
Jemelia D
November 3, 2016 - 12:01 AM
I support the views so clearly expressed by Clare and can attest to the effectiveness of that approach. After such an introduction which includes information on my background and my commitment to the mediation process the disputing parties tend to be willing to participate, even in instances where their Attorneys show little enthuasism. Jemelia Davis Attorney-at-Law, Mediator and Arbitrator Jamaica Telephone 631 6645
Dan B
October 27, 2016 - 11:53 AM
Excellent article, Clare. Like you I also provide a 30 minute consultation at no charge. The only requirement I have is that they come in together and that we limit the discussion to the mediation process and not discuss the legal or substantive issues they are facing. Sounds like you do the same thing.
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