Most firms and essentially all solo practitioners will offer prospective clients a free initial consultation, during which the client can get limited legal advice for free, and then decide whether or not to hire a particular attorney. This is actually a sales pitch, as anyone who's say through one knows. Generally the lawyer will either decline the case out of hand, or tell the client how serious their situation is and advise posting a retainer right now. Sometimes this is justified; traditional firms can only handle cases that come with X guaranteed dollars, and some times cases are really serious and the client does need immediate counsel.
However, more frequently, the case is not as serious as the lawyer makes it sound. The fog of mystery that law firms cultivate makes a legal case seem very threatening, and generally lawyers aren't looking to do much education in an initial consultation.
I find that an oriented client makes for a much better relationship, and a much better case. My goal in an initial consultation is to figure out what problem you have, translate your problem from legal to normal English for you, and then set out a few different choices. Sometimes, of course, I have to suggest clients retain me immediately, but often we're able to settle on something less drastic. For example, a landowner planning construction and facing objections from a neighbor may just need a well-drafted letter and a few hours of lawyer time to understand what the options are and which triggers to look out for. I love to be able to tell clients that what they bought should take care of the problem, and to feel like they know enough to know when to call me again if things get worse.
Similarly, if you have a speeding ticket for $300, getting decent legal advice is basically impossible. It's not worth most lawyers' time to set up a formal retainer and to schedule possible hearing dates for less than the full price of the ticket, and yet a speeding ticket can have a large impact on your life. What I generally recommend is that you pay for one or two hours of my time, so I can hear the story and educate you on your options to fight it. I'll tell you what will work best for your particular case, and tell you about the court you're walking into. Thus, Verbeck Law gets paid for a couple of hours of work, and you get legal advice on an important legal problem. That's all you pay for, and if you need more help later, give us a call and we'll figure something else out. I won't take a big chunk of your money and sit on it; that doesn't make sense for anyone.
Our initial consuls are, I believe, more useful and more honest. They are also, as of this writing, free. If you have a problem that might benefit from a little legal help, shoot us an email and we'll see what we can do.