How do I pay a friend for professional services?

I asked a friend for some legal advice. Minor stuff, think a question about a contract with a contractor, not writing it or anything like that. I’m feeling like I should pay her. (She sometimes asks me for help with math-related stuff, but still). She’s just starting out as a lawyer and I feel bad asking her without paying her. How do I go about doing that?

This is a confusing question. I’m assuming you are familiar with the myriad ways of sending someone money so are you asking because you think it would be awkward? You don’t know how much to pay?

I feel like some additional details about what is confusing you would be helpful.

I would send her a nice gift if she isn’t looking for an actual payment


A gift is nice, yes. Next time, ask her for an estimate of the cost upfront, so she doesn’t have to bring up the uncomfortable topic. And, even better, refer her to others who are looking for legal help, if she works in the private practice setting.


I’m asking because it might be awkward, I don’t know how much, though I could probably guess an upper limit, I don’t even know if payment even crossed her mind.

Also I can’t think of what would be a good gift.

Do you think it would be okay to pick an amount and send a check or visa gift card to her with a thank you card? Or I could ask her what her Venmo is?

first, raise the question of payment, it sounds like you haven’t even broached it yet.

if she says, no then consider a gift, what do you kn o w about her? A favorite restaurant? does she drink wine? i wouldn’t do a Visa (or similar gift card) - if not actual money, i would prefer more personal. Maybe offer a donation to a charity of her choice


+1 on just asking how much you owe for the legal advice. It will convey your intentions of not trying to take advantage of a friendship in order to get free advice (and help her get the idea that she shouldn’t offer free legal advice until she’s well established). And you’ll get a clear answer on what she does expect.

If she does say she’s doing it pro bono and you lot should get your mind out of the gutter!, then ask her why and what is her favorite charity.

1 Like

Pro bono is for low income in my view. I don’t think helping me would qualify.

Thanks. I asked her and she said don’t pay her, just be around for math questions. :person_shrugging: (Which I would be anyway, so it doesn’t count.) Now I’m wondering whether to ask again, or just get a restaurant gift card. I like that one more than the other possibilities. (Or should I leave it?) I appreciate the advice!

I think you should make sure you are around for her math questions.


you could just leave it, as she feels she uses you as well

you could also treat her to a meal as a thank you


Agree with all that a small gift is in order. A bouquet of flowers and a $20 gift card, etc. I get the impression the help you asked for was relatively trivial. Personally, I ask lawyer friends of mine questions frequently. However, I do my own research and my questions are more like, “Hey, snap take from you? This thing seems blatantly illegal, do you agree?” and they respond “Yes” or “Actually that gets really specific”, at which point I don’t ask them for greater help, unless I planned to pay.

In the future I’d approach a similar question with: “Hey, I know you’re a great resource but I don’t want to just “steal” free work from you. I was wondering if you could help me with this and I’d be happy to pay, or I could take you out to a nice dinner or a hangout at the movies or something!”

Assuming you want to further the friendship that’s a win-win. An offer of not-money makes things less awkward and you get to do something fun together.

1 Like

That was going to be my suggestion, don’t lawyers have to do so much work pro bono? If so, congrats - you’ve helped her out with that. If not? Still valuable learning experience.

Assuming you two hang out even somewhat frequently, just do something random for her like pick up the tab somewhere. Don’t make it real obvious, but if she asks just pose it as you helped me with something, I just wanted to do a little something to thank you for it.

Why doesn’t it count? I know a lot of “well-off” people that pay big bucks for tutoring their kid.

Pro bono is free work regardless of the status of the recipient. It is true that in the legal profession this is done more for low-income individuals; but it also applies when the work is done for family (and very close friends).

1 Like

I’m with tty: - I get math questions all the time, I would never think of charging, unless I was sitting down with someone regularly to actually tutor. and in all honesty, math came way too naturally to me, I am a terrible tutor

I get that. What I’m pushing back on is the idea that the “tutoring” isn’t of high value to the other party.

That is, “you’re already giving me a valuable service; so I’m returning that favor by giving you some (easy) legal advice” is being discounted by the attitude of “I wouldn’t charge for that service”.

I would offer. She’ll say no. Then you take her out to coffee, lunch, drink, dinner as a thank you. And refer friends, coworkers, companies and you’ll pay her many times over the cost of that advice.

1 Like

I would say that this should happen regardless of any other “thank you’s” that are given.