‘I am sick of my non-law friends asking me for free legal advice’

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Pro no-no

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a junior solicitor is sick of being asked for free legal advice by friends.

“Hello Team. I am a 2PQE solicitor at a medium-sized national law firm (I’d prefer not say where). Not sure if this counts as a career conundrum but I am sick of my non-law friends asking me for legal advice. In my professional life I undertake a broad range of commercial work, more recently with a focus on property matters. Over the past 12 months or so I have seen an increase in the number of friends (I use that term loosely in some cases) asking for legal advice on things like tenancy agreements, property purchases and even parking disputes. One person who I haven’t spoken to in over 5 years even reached out on LinkedIn! Do any other solicitors encounter this? How can I politely tell them to jog on?”

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functional brain

Yeah it’s really easy actually – you let them know your rate and forward an invoice.


Clint (not my real name)

I once had someone I went to school with reach out regarding a dispute they were having with their estranged partner over their dog. I hadn’t spoke to them in 10 years. I explained I didn’t specialise in ‘pet law’ and was unable to help



Now imagine what it might be like workings in the IT Department of a law firm.



If it’s a close friend I’ll always try and help.



Really doesn’t bother me. It’s no different to me asking friends who are tradesman to do odd little jobs for me on mates rates.


A. George

Just let them know you are specialised in IP Law. With a little bit of luck, none of your friends should ever need your help.



You should patent that idea.



It really is annoying – you wouldn’t ask a hairdresser friend for a completely free haircut, so why should my services (which I incurred around £50k of debt to practise and which have a market value of several £100s an hour) and my time be handed out for free? Asking a corporate lawyer to advise on your argument with a neighbour over a fence or a dispute with your employer is like asking a heart surgeon to perform brain surgery – they may have a loose idea, but it’s simply not their job! Legal services are expensive for a reason (because it is a specialism) and expecting them for free is cheeky in my opinion.

In answer to your question: I apologise (insincerely) and say I’m actually not allowed to provide private client advice due to working at a firm and that it could also open me up to a negligence claim. Tends to work.



In relation to the market value of £100s per hour, probably 80% of that value comes from your firm’s branding/support services and the wider team available.

Try getting anything close to that as a sole trader/consultant.


Archibald O'Pomposity

Oh get over yourself, for crying out loud.


Internal Dialogue

“I work on the formation of investment funds, why would know anything about your crappy fence dispute with your Mr Angry neighbour? You bought a house in a dormitory town than voted in favour of Brexit. You would have known your neighbour could well be a complete tool.”



Do a crap job and they wont ask again – easy.



Thus potentially opening yourself up to a lawsuit! Perfect



I do pro-bono work in very specific circumstances, not for just anyone.

The best are the ones who don’t want to pay a lawyer because it’s “just a quick question”. If it were “just a quick question” you’d have googled it! If you want to sit down with a professional and get their detailed advice, that’s a service.



Happens at the bar too.

If it’s a good friend / in my wheelhouse I’ll genuinely try to help, albeit with some heavy disclaimers.

If it’s someone more distant, I usually (i) ask of they have LEI on their insurance (which, surprisingly, many do), and / or (ii) say something like “that’s probably the sort of thing you’d need to speak about with a solicitor who specialises in X – most do a fixed fee first hour or similar – would you like me to put you in touch with someone who I think might be good?”. If I’m feeling generous I might give some general comments with very broad brush strokes as well.

I agree its par for the course, and part of the fabric of life. God knows the number of times I’ve asked annoying questions of friends in other fields and they’ve pointed me in the right direction.



Tell them you have quit law due to the soul crushing billable hours to become an astronaut (or insert any other profession that you always wanted to do)


Archibald O'Pomposity

Leave the funnies to me, bozo.



Yes, you do need the practice.


Not an AI bot

How have you managed to become a 2yrPQE solicitor without learning the art of dealing with people and managing expectaions ?



I help lots of people when I can, it’s about karma. If you have the time then it doesn’t hurt …Meantime I also know how to say that I really know nothing about that area of law (and I don’t have insurance when things go wrong).


Archibald O'Pomposity

“I help lots of people when I can, it’s about karma. ”

It has nothing to do with karma (if you believe that sort of superstition). If you help people, it should be because you believe that’s the right thing to do – either in the individual case or generally – and not because you believe you’ll get a corresponding reward from the universe in future.



You get it in all industries I’m afraid. I’m an optometrist changing career to barrister, and regularly I get my partners friends sending me watsapp pictures of their gammy red eyes for advice! You can be polite and say ‘without looking at it in depth I’d be doing you a disservice – here’s a number of someone who could really look after you’.


Captain Pugwash

“I specialize in demurrage claims” has seen off every annoying conversation I’ve almost had to have about law with family, friends, and even some of my legal colleagues since 2005.



I’m a criminal lawyer but in cases like these, I tell them that I specialise in ecclesiastical quasi-easements. Works for me.


Stolen From Ivor

You literally just repeated in a less funny way, the prior post. No surprises there. “Criminal lawyer”.


Junior Leachman

If the advice sorted by the friends is your area of expertise, you could give them a listening ears and them send them an invoice and indicate that you can advice them but they will have to pay the invoice first. It has works for me 8 out 10 times.
There is no such thing as free lunch.


Not Enough Sand

I came across this correspondence as a medico-legal expert. It explains why Lawyers have such a poor reputation among the general public. I have always been happy to give simple answers to my friend’s medical queries. They usually consist of explanation, reassurance or pointing in the right direction, and I would never dream of charging, or putting anything in writing. I am an anaesthetist but am happy to comment on simple medical problems that do not require anaesthesia, many of these I learned about while studying for my Scout first aid badge.

It is good to see that some of the contributors to this series share my approach to being asked for advice. Unfortunately most of the contributors encourage the belief among the public that if there is a room full of lawyers up to their necks in sand, the problem is that there is not enough sand.


Captain Pugwash

Sometimes when I’m talking to someone for the first time and I’m not really interested in pursuing the conversation further, I just respond to the question “And what do you do for a living?” with “I’m a medico-legal expert”…never seen so many people move away so fast… Works every time.


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