Often you might hear attorneys referred to as “counsel” or “counselors”—particularly in more formal courtroom-type settings. Merriam-Webster defines a “counselor” as first: “a person who gives advice or counseling”; and, second, within the context of a lawyer, specifically: “one that gives advice in law and manages cases for clients in court”. We actually take that term and that aspect of the services we provide our clients to heart here at Schauermann Thayer.
We do not pretend to have the expertise nor the qualifications of a mental health counselor nor a financial advisor nor anything of the sort beyond the scope of our practice of personal injury and wrongful death law. We do, however, give as much practical advice (even beyond the legal context) as is appropriate and as we are qualified to provide to our clients.
Even in the context of potential clients who haven't chosen to hire our firm yet, I have heard from multiple potential clients I've talked to that they've called other personal injury and wrongful death law firms only to find they are speaking with a paralegal who is screening their case. They tell me they never actually get through to an attorney. I've been thanked many times for taking the time to speak with folks who've called in. Where potential clients call our firm and the call is within the scope of what we practice, in almost every situation you will have an opportunity to speak with an attorney about what's going on. At the very least, the attorney will be able to refer you to someone else or give you some practical advice and how better to potentially manage the circumstances you're dealing with.
To the extent the attorney believes that our firm may be able to help you in your particular circumstances, though, they will set up an in person meeting in follow-up of that telephone call. This is the free consultation. We've written blog posts in the past on what to consider, what to bring, and what to expect, but suffice it to say it's an opportunity to sit across the desk from an attorney without any expectation of payment or otherwise at the conclusion of the consultation meeting.
The reason our attorneys take the time to talk with potential clients on the telephone and meet with potential clients in person goes back to our role of counselor. When it comes down to it, we recognize that we have a unique ability to help people who are often out of their depth in dealing with the aftermath of an incident that has caused some level of turmoil or upheaval in their lives through no fault of their own.
It is true and we will openly recognize that we could probably be more profitable as a business if we had paralegals screening out the majority of calls from potential clients as some other personal injury and wrongful death firms do. However, whenever this option has come up at our corporate annual meetings—the idea has been roundly rejected by the Partners in our firm.
Again, recognizing our ability to help people in those situations—even if we're merely providing practical advice in a telephone call or an in-person meeting and not undertaking full legal representation—we welcome the opportunity to do so.