Many attorneys do not charge for an initial private consultation. This is particularly true for plaintiff-oriented cases where the attorney will ultimately charge on a contingency fee basis. During the initial consultation, the attorney will assess the merits of success on the potential claim or lawsuit. However, if the purpose of consultation is for the rendering of a simple legal opinion, most attorneys will charge a relatively small fee, e.g., less than $100.
Since everything communicated during the initial consultation is protected by attorney-client privilege, it is important that clients are open and honest with the attorney, providing all known information and (crucially) even the damaging facts. Even a low consultation fee is worthlessly spent if the attorney is not able to fairly assess the case because of withheld information.
During the initial consultation, the question of fees should be addressed and committed to writing. (This is also an appropriate time for the client to assess the experience, skills, and effectiveness of counsel.)