There are a lot of attorneys out there these days -- clients have a lot of options. A brief consultation isn't just a chance to decide if you want to take that client. It's also an opportunity for the client to decide if they like you.
You've already got that person in the door but that's not the same as signing the client. That first contact will be when they decide if your service is worth it.
Give those clients a reason to work with you during that first consultation and you'll find yourself with a lot more options.
Show, don't tell. Give potential clients necessary information, help them begin to solve problems, and focus on their needs during the initial contact. They'll soon see that you have the skills and expertise to take their case.
Get them thinking about the case early. Don't wait until the first meeting to have clients start thinking about their story. Encourage them to write down a summary and bring it with them. That will save you time in the meeting for more important questions and they'll start seeing you as the person to bring their case to.
Ask legal questions. Assert yourself as a legal professional by focusing on legal questions. When asking clients about what brought them in, use legal terminology and act as if you're already building a case. Because you are.
Focus on costs, not fees. Talking about fees in the initial interview can scare some clients off. Instead talk about the potential costs to them in time and money for not dealing with the legal issue quickly and efficiently. Your fees will seem small by comparison.
Give them homework. If by the end of the consult you want to take the case keep the client engaged. Ask them to send you additional information or talk to potential witnesses. Then they'll also see the initial consultation as the start of a professional relationship.