request for free legal work

I am a lawyer in sole practice.

It's Friday afternoon, and I have just received email from an acquaintance in which he requests that I promptly review a 19-page contract for his wife, and give him my "quick, nothing formal" comments. He also informs me in his email what in particular are the provisions in the contract that she is concerned about. He further informs me that she needs this by Monday. He also mentions that they would be happy to take me to lunch or dinner to compensate me for my time and efforts.

I have been practicing law for approximately 20 years in a large urban setting. I charge $350/hour which is a very common hourly rate here, not very expensive. In my experience, it takes a few or several hours to review a contract of this length, discuss it with a client, prepare the redrafts, have client review those and then finalize it all. It also very common that I will later receive additional, follow-up questions or requests as the contract is being negotiated with the other party.

I generally eat salad for lunch or dinner, a $20 fare even at the most expensive restaurants.

This is certainly not the first time that I have received such a request, and a similar offer of a "compensation", if any at all, from a friend or acquaintance.

How do I politely tell them that their request is inappropriate on all counts, including the time constrains and lack of consideration for my professional responsibility and compensation?


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Mar 07, 2016
i love those types NEW
by: Anonymous

I like to ask them if I can borrow his cottage for the summer because if I spent 1 more family weekend working on someone's else's urgent problems I might need a place to stay for a couple of months.....and get the keys up is amazing how quick they like to offer something not so dear to their hearts like money......not a lawyer, but a plumber and get asked to give up my free time for others too often also.

Nov 12, 2013
just say no NEW
by: Anonymous

If it's so quick and easy and informal, why doesn't he do it himself?

He can't have it both ways: either your specialized training and expertise are necessary and therefore worth paying market rate for, or they're not in which case he should review it himself. Outrageous, insulting, very rude.

If this were a very close friend or family member, it would be a (slightly) more difficult question. As it is only an acquaintance - rather, the acquaintance's wife, whom you do not indicate knowing directly - IMO you are more than entitled to ignore the request completely, reply that you don't have the time, or reply with your standard onboarding letter stating your fee, retainer, etc.

Providers of any kind of specialized, expensive service -- doctors, accountants, interior decorators -- are always going to attract this kind of entitled, presumptuous behavior. It never ceases to amaze.

May 13, 2013
over price attorney NEW
by: Anonymous

best answer is you and your others are not worth $350 hr. you thinks so becasue thats what the law teacher teach. most people if they have half a brain can read up or find other soruce for information. most likly the contract was writen by a attorney in such a way to be intentionaly confusing . . .dont sign it and rewright is in plain english.

Jul 16, 2012
Just don't do it NEW
by: Meredith

I would explain that you cannot give the matter the time and consideration it deserves and perhaps suggest someone who can. You do not have to justify your excuse with a reason if you do not want to. If you wish, propose going out for that meal to catch up with your acquaintance.

May 08, 2010
I hear you, I really do
by: Anonymous

It is not your fault that you are 'assumed' to be able to give free legal work.

Having good manners is putting up with some people's bad ones, hey?

Just give an excuse that you have a big case coming up and you simply do not have the time.

Or renegotiate, do they have anything they can offer that you want? (the use of their boat for one afternoon etc etc)

Or, look at it for 15 minutes and say, "it looks like the standard contract but I can't be too sure - best not to take my word on it. It will take a couple of hours for me to look through it properly, please book a time so I can better help you."

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