No to free legal advice: why your lawyer-friends avoid you

There is more to asking free legal advice from your lawyer-friends.

If you want to maintain your good relations with them, here are some of the things to keep in mind and these may explain why they are not responding to your questions:

When you ask for a free legal advice, you are asking a lawyer to work.

  • To you, it is a conversation: “Hello, how are you? Can I ask for legal advice?”
  • To your lawyer-friend, it is work. You actually sound like this: “Can you work on this problem for the next 30 minutes or maybe an hour? If you happen to get a headache or lose some time, please charge it to our friendship. I’m sure I have a long line of credit with you.”
  • A question for you: would you want to work for anyone for free? Or better yet, will you be willing to do volunteer work at your lawyer’s office? Thought so.

When you ask for a free legal advice, you are asking a lawyer to dedicate time to analyze your problem.

  • To you, it will “only” take a few minutes.
  • To your lawyer-friend, it is never a few minutes if he is going to give a solid advice. He will need to think through your problem like a detective and perhaps do some research (you know, that thing called reading). What are the available information, documents, witnesses? How will these interplay? What complications could happen? What’s the current applicable laws, rules, and caselaw? And so on.
  • Think about the last time that you asked for a free legal advice. Observe how much time it took, including follow-up conversations with you; worse, if you asked for a meeting in-person, think about the travel time, traffic, parking, and so on. Was it just a few minutes?

When you ask for a free legal advice, you are asking a lawyer to create a lawyer-client relationship resulting in his law license being placed on the line.

  • To you, the decisions and actions you will be making have now some semblance of being backed by legal advice. Let’s say things go bad, will you hold the lawyer responsible for the free legal advice?
  • To your lawyer-friend, a lawyer-client relationship will be created requiring him to observe the rules in the legal profession, such as confidentiality, diligence, and professionalism, among others. These obligations attach even if the consultation is for free. He is held to the same standards with his license on the line whether the advice was paid or not. The reason for this rule is that the person asking for legal advice will likely use the information to make a decision. Thus, for the public good, lawyers are expected to carefully evaluate cases that are being brought to them for consultation.
  • On this note, your lawyer dedicated a lot of time, effort, and money to get a law degree, pass the bar exam, and obtain his law license. You really want him to risk all these for a free legal advice?

When you ask for a free legal advice, you are asking a lawyer to forego earning income.

  • To you, asking legal advice is probably nothing.
  • To your lawyer-friend, you are asking him to forego earning and somehow magically expect food on the table. How do you think lawyers earn their keep? Legal consultation happens to be a main source of income, as against court room appearances and legal projects. Are you asking him to render free work while you drink Starbucks everyday and go on your vacation to some lovely destination?
  • On behalf of many lawyers out there, we’d rather get paid than you paying for lunch or coffee. Whatever you are paying for the meal or coffee is not even going to cover our mobile postpaid plan or the parking ticket in some cases. Yes, we have bills to pay just like you.

So there, now you know what your lawyer-friends are actually thinking whenever you ask for legal advice. You may want to re-evaluate things if you want to cultivate that friendship as you drink Starbucks in a cafe or resting on some beach destination.