As a solo practitioner working mainly on contingency, budgeting and projecting income can be tricky. Another occupational hazard is making appointments with prospective clients, who then don’t show up and leave me wasting the time it took to get to and from my office and waiting for a no-show. Some other solos have encouraged me to charge a nominal fee for appointments. They insist that it helps cash flow and separates those that are serious about their legal issue from those who may decide not to bother showing up.
While I have not implemented this strategy yet, I can see the purpose. Charging $100 or $150 shows the prospective client that your time is valuable and not to be wasted. It also gives them a sense that they are receiving something of value in the legal advice you impart, even if they do not become a client beyond that meeting.
For now, the marketing benefits of free consultation outweigh the monetary benefits of charging for an appointment. This is probably something to revisit when my firm is more established.