Seven working days ago I emailed eight lawyers based in a medium-sized New Zealand city and specialized in criminal law. The emails were:

Dear Firstname Lastname,

I am seeking legal advice as a private prosecutor. At the moment I would like to receive an advice answering this question: Getting courts to reconsider judgment when new evidence crops up

That said, I am seeking advice at high level — as opposed to going into specific details of the case — unless this is proved necessary.

Can you please let me know if I can be your client initially just for the purpose of getting an answer to the question at the link above?

Yours sincerely,

**** ****

Out of the 8 lawyers just one replied, saying that he's fully committed and so unable to help. This kind of silence made me wonder why most lawyers would not even drop a line saying "No".

Is giving high level advice like the one I requested something that lawyers cannot do, or generally, do not want to do for some reason?

3 Answers 3


Dale M is correct. Lawyers get calls all day long from people who want free advice and have no intention of entering into a paid representation. That is what your letter sounds like.

I write separately just to add that you may have better results if you make explicit that you are aware of their rates and prepared to pay them.

Even then, though, it may be that whatever you'd pay for the two hours to walk you through this is not as valuable as time they'd spend on other matters. If I have to prioritize between a repeat client and someone who will probably not pay for anything more than having one question answered, that's an easy choice.

  • This makes sense. Rudeness justified by the market.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 19:21

Lawyers run businesses. Like most businesspeople they prioritise their clients on their profitability. On the face of it, your letter probably has you classified as a tire kicker.

  • My intent to pay for the advice was/is genuine. Does it read between the lines as not? Or was the advice I was after way too simple to waste time on giving it?
    – Greendrake
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 6:37
  • 1
    @Greendrake I'd say it was unclear. You might want to ask how much they would charge for the service, making it more clear that you want to be a paying customer. Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 20:59
  • @DavidThornley I thought the word "client" that I used will convey that I was intending to pay. Thanks — had no idea my message might look the one of a free rider!
    – Greendrake
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 21:42
  • Agreed. "Client" could mean paying hourly, paying a flat fee, paying on contingency, or pro bono.
    – bdb484
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 1:21
  • 1
    Instead of using ambiguous language of the type @DavidThornley pointed out, maybe just be clear and say "I would like to hire you to provide me some strategic legal advice" or something similar.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 3:24

To add something to the answers provided, it may be the case that they have malpractice concerns. I have no idea what you're going to ask them, but I can imagine a lawyer worrying about him giving you strategic advice, you implementing it (either correctly or incorrectly), and then finding himself liable somehow if you fail in the case. If not malpractice, perhaps there are ethical concerns involved for the same reason.

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