consultation policy - why consultations are not "free"


Other than potential actions for personal injury, the firm no longer offers unlimited time free consultations except in the case of people covered by a legal referral plan program that our attorneys participate in. 

The firm does offer a free one-half hour consultation. If at the potential client's option more time is needed, A $200 flat fee is charged for consultations that last over one-half hour up to one hour total. This policy pertains to most general practice areas including animal law.  All forms of cash and check payment are accepted as well as MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover and PayPal.

You get what you pay for. A legal consultation is no exception to this rule. In a typical “free” consultation, you can expect to meet the attorney for 15-20 minutes to a half hour, during which time you give only basic information about yourself and your case, get a sense of how much it might cost to retain the attorney, and walk away with little useful information.

It has been my general experience that clients leave my office after the consultation with questions answered, fears are allayed, and – even if they don’t like the answers – they know what to expect. Their unrealistic expectations are brought into perspective. Sometimes, they walk away deciding not to litigate, because the costs or risks of filing suit are too great. But we believe that you will get your money’s worth.

My consultations are more of an interview and analysis. These consultations take as much time as is needed for me to fully analyze the situation. I don’t just ask where you live and what is the name of the adverse litigant. I take all relevant information from you, in order to get a sense of your case. I take time to discuss the legal issues and we even give you valuable, useful legal advice. The information I acquire during the initial interview can be used during the case to create the necessary documents to file in court, or proceed further with the matter.

In all cases I can give you a general idea of what you can expect in the process, discuss possible legal outcomes that I can foresee at the time, explain what I believe to be the strengths and weaknesses of your case and give you suggestions on how to perhaps resolve your situation without going to court. Generally, I will need to spend an hour with you to get a sense the case and to have a meaningful discussion with you.

We receive many telephone calls from many potential clients who tell our receptionist that they just “have a quick question”, “need an answer” or that they want to know if they have a case before they are willing to commit to a consultation fee or to hire an attorney. Please understand that,  in the area of animal law that I am one of the few attorneys in New York state that has this unique practice. It is not uncommon for both sides of a dispute or situation to each call me within hours or days of the occurrence. In order to prevent conflicts of interest arising, I feel that it is most effective for both the client and myself to have the consultation fee in place.

When you initially contact my office, the receptionist will take some biographical information from you and a quick description of the facts of your case and may ask you for information regarding opposing parties. Prior to contacting you to set up an appointment we will review this information for two things: first, to make sure there is no conflict of interest and second, to be sure that this is a type of matter that we handle. Please be advised that our firm does not handle Criminal cases involving alleged abuse to animals, nor can I take cases or provide legal advice regarding matters that are outside of the states of New York. If you are calling with questions regarding suing a veterinarian for veterinary malpractice, please be advised that other than in circumstances where the veterinary bills exceed $20,000, I cannot accept or consider taking these types of cases on a contingency basis. Generally, veterinary malpractice cases are on an hourly basis at $300.00 per hour.

If you are interested in having a legal consultation with me please contact my office today.

Consultations – Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Schedule a Consultation? 

Consultations are by appointment only. Please call us at (518) 280-7580 to schedule an appointment. Appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. 

How Much Does a Consultation Cost?

Although the first one-half hour is free, Initial consultations with Attorney Jonathan Schopf are $200, payable in advance for sessions that last over one-half hour up to one hour total. For your convenience, we accept all major credit cards.

What Will My Initial Consultation Include?

Prior to your appointment, attorney Jonathan Schopf will review any materials you have provided in advance. During your appointment, Mr. Schopf will provide you with an initial assessment of whether you have a viable legal case, and if so, what your options are for resolving your matter and how much those options might cost. Mr. Schopf will answer any other questions you may have pertaining to your case. When appropriate for your case, Mr. Schopf may refer you to an attorney in a different practice area or geographic location.

Can I Fax or Email Contracts or Other Information for My Consultation?  

Yes. When you call to make your appointment, our receptionist will advise you about what materials, if any, you should provide to us prior to your consultation. To allow sufficient time for the attorney to review your materials prior to your consultation, please provide them at least one business day in advance of your appointment.

What Information Will I Need to Have Available When I Call to Schedule the Consultation?  

Our receptionist will ask for the following information: Your full name and contact information, the full name of the opposing party (if the matter is a dispute or potential dispute) and a brief description of the matter.  You must provide us with all requested information in order to schedule a consultation. Please expect to spend 5-10 minutes on the phone. Note that our receptionist is not an attorney and therefore cannot give legal advice.

Will My Information Be Kept Confidential?   

Yes. The information that you provide our receptionist and the information that you provide Mr. Schopf during the consultation will be kept completely confidential.

Why Do You Need to Know Who the Other Party Is? 

Due to the niche areas of practice that our law firm specializes in, specific animal law, and because few lawyers practice in this area of the law, we are often contacted by both parties in a matter. Legal ethics rules may prohibit us from speaking with anyone regarding a legal matter where we may have a conflict of interest.  Prior to your scheduled initial consultation, we will review your information to determine whether there is a potential conflict of interest, and if so, refer you to another attorney or local bar association for a referral.

What Is a Conflict of Interest?

Conflicts of interest typically occur when one of the parties is already a client of the firm or as otherwise provided the firm with certain information where the Rules of Professional Conduct create a conflict.

What Happens if the Other Party Has Already Contacted Mr. Schopf? 

Prior to your scheduled initial consultation, we will review your information to determine whether there is a potential conflict of interest, and if so, refer you to another attorney. In such cases, we will cancel your consultation appointment and refund your consultation fee. Please note that in order to maintain client confidentiality, we cannot provide any specific information about any potential conflict of interest.

Will My Consultation Be with an Attorney or a Paralegal?

Your consultation will be with Jonathan Schopf, an attorney licensed to practice in New York and Pennsylvania.

What Can I Expect During My Consultation? 

Attorney Jonathan Schopf, will meet with or call you at the appointment time. To make the most of your consultation, please try to keep your questions and descriptions as brief as possible. During the consultation, we ask that you be reasonably free of distractions and that you be available to talk when we call or meet. If there is another person with pertinent questions about your matter, such as your spouse, please directly include them in the call rather than having them ask questions in the background. We understand that consultations by cell phone are often necessary, but please try to be in a location where you have reliable reception. If the consultation cannot be completed due to poor cell phone reception, interruptions or other reasons, the call may have to be terminated. 

How Do I Retain you to Help Me?

Before taking on new clients, we require the initial consultation. If, at the conclusion of your initial consultation, we believe we can assist you, we will outline what we believe the next logical steps are, and provide you with a verbal estimate of costs and a proposed retainer amount. If you decide to retain us to represent you, we will send you a retainer agreement letter by mail or email, which is our contract with you that says what we will do and how much it will cost. I will not perform substantive work on a matter without the payment of the agreed upon retainer and receipt of the signed retainer agreement.

What Will Legal Representation Cost?

For fixed or flat fee services, such as one time form contracts, buisness incorporation and other transaction based matters, we require payment in advance, in full, before starting work. For all other matters, we require a retainer. The retainer acts as a deposit, and will be credited toward your legal bills as they come due – it is not a fee just to hire us. For most litigation matters we require a minimum retainer of between $2,500 and $10,000 and time is billed at the rate of $300.00 per hour.

What if you Can’t Help Me?

If, during the consultation, our attorney determines that we cannot assist you further, we will try to provide you with a referral to another attorney.  In some cases, we may not have an appropriate referral, and we will provide you with suggestions for finding a qualified attorney in your area.  For some matters, it may not be cost-effective to hire an attorney at all, and when we believe that is the case, we will so advise you, and try to provide you with suggestions.

What Kinds of Cases Do You Typically Take? 

Although our office predominately handles Animal Related, Personal Injury, Municipal, Non-Profit Corporation, For-Profit Corporate and Tax Certiorari legal matters.  We also have a vast array of legal experience in many other areas and pride ourselves on being a competent general practice law firm.  During your initial consultation, we will determine whether we can assist you with your legal matter and will advise you if we cannot.

Are There Animal Related Matters that You Don’t Handle?

Yes.  We do not accept the following types of cases:  Criminal defense of animal cruelty charges and except in very limited circumstances, plaintiff’s veterinary malpractice cases.

What If I Need Follow Up Advice After My Consultation?

If your matter requires additional attorney time, you will need to formally retain us.

What If I Need to Reschedule My Consultation?

If you call at least 24 hours in advance to reschedule your consultation, we will be happy to reschedule your consultation at no charge.

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