My Time for Military Justice

After almost nine years in private practice, my firm moved to paid consultations for some categories of new clients. I have been tempted to do so for many years. My impulse earlier this year was for all consultations to be paid, but I backed off from it.

When I first started out, I fielded a large number of calls from service members whose questions could easily have been answered by watching the canned video at their base legal office. Many wanted to complain about receiving nonjudicial punishment for offenses they had committed but wanted an ear to bend about the injustice of it or that others who had committed similar offenses had not received the same treatment. It took a while, but I began to put boundaries on my time by redirecting such callers to their base legal office before giving over my time.

My time has value. Let me say that again, my time has a value to it. The years I have spent developing the baseline of my knowledge, skill, and expertise has value.

What I have found as I have been slowly converting to paid consultations over the last few months confirms my movement away from “free consultations.” People who are willing to pay for my time, recognize the value of my time. After speaking with me for their half hour, they convert to paying clients. The conversion rate of those seeking “free” is far lower.

I want to emphasize that my shift in this way is not (solely) one that is financial. By moving however slowly to a paid consultation model, I have noticed that the process of asking that someone make a small financial contribution for an opportunity to speak with someone with years of experience is a screening tool for clients who take their pending matter seriously.

When I was in uniform and taking on assigned clients, I definitely felt as though several clients did not give the attention and energy to their cases that I felt they should. But I was just a “free” resource, right? I find that clients who hire private counsel are motivated, including motivated to assist in their own defense. I often say to potential clients, “I cannot care more about your case than you do.”

Maybe this change will flop. Who knows? We will see.

But for now, I think it is important to remember that time is the only non-renewable resource. My time has a value, and it is high time that I ensure every moment counts.

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