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Updated: Oct 31

When you need a California lawyer, don't rely on biased lawyer marketing. Benefits of using certified lawyer referral services.

State Bar Certified Lawyer referral services have been operational in the United States for the last 50 years and were first established as a response by middle-income persons for assistance in obtaining appropriate, ethical and competent legal counsel.

California State Bar Certified Attorney Search & Information Service

Bar Certified Lawyer Referral Services are designed to help local communities and individuals who are ready to pay normal legal fees, but whose ability to locate appropriate and reputable legal representation is frustrated by a scarcity of experience with the system, unreliable legal advertising, a lack of knowledge of the type of legal service needed, or a fear of the potential costs of hiring a local pre-screened California lawyer.

Certified lawyer referral programs offer two very important services to the general public. First, they assist the client in determining if the matter is actually of a legal nature by analyzing inquiries and referring the client to alternate service agencies when appropriate.

The second, and maybe more important, the function of a certified lawyer referral service is to supply the client with an unbiased lawyer referral to a local pre-screened attorney who has experience within the specific area of law appropriate to the client's needs. The main function of certified lawyer referral programs with consumer-oriented assistance is focused on the person in need of legal representation and secondarily with the participating attorney.

In 1989, following an extended review process by state, local bar associations and lawyer referral experts from both the general public, the American Bar Association implemented Model Rules of operation for certified lawyer referral programs nationwide.

The primary objective of these model rules of operation is to protect the consumer.

The original standards used previously at the state and local levels were simply not sufficient to make sure the general public service orientation of some private, for-profit services, strong and enforceable regulations were needed to realize minimal standards for all lawyer referral services.

However, while the principles must be strong to be effective, the American Bar Association had been mindful of the necessity to permit legitimate public service-oriented attorneys and providers to work without undue interference.

In drafting the Model Rules, the American Bar Association had to balance these considerations. These Rules are designed to supply a level playing field for all programs, whether private or bar-sponsored. Each state is urged to look at its rules, decisions, and opinions so as to utilize the Model Rules during a manner according to its local and state laws.

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Model Supreme Court Rules For Certified Lawyer Referral Services.

A qualified lawyer referral service shall be operated within the public interest and shall provide information regarding government and consumer agencies, which can assist the client, also as provide referrals to lawyers, unpaid programs, and other legal service providers. The service could also be privately owned goodbye because the primary purpose is public service.

Membership within the service should be open to all qualified licensed attorneys within the geographic area served who meet the minimal membership requirements of the lawyer referral service outline below. Charges for membership within the service must be reasonable. Membership might not be restricted by the actual geographical areas or subject areas.

The lawyer referral service must require its members to professional insurance or to supply proof of monetary responsibility to protect the public.

Combined fees and expenses charged to a potential client by a lawyer referral service, and therefore the panel attorney to whom the client is referred shall not exceed the combined fees and expenses the client would have otherwise incurred if no referral service were employed.

No fee-generating referral could also be made to any lawyer who has ownership in, who operates, or who is used by the service, or to their firm. Referrals could also be made to lawyers who are members of the board or governing committee of the service so as long as they are doing not receive any preferential treatment over other participating California attorneys.

The lawyer referral service must survey client reviews and satisfaction with its operations and shall take appropriate action regarding any complaints against participating attorneys, the service, or its employees.

The lawyer referral and information service must establish procedures for the admission, suspension, or removal of a lawyer from any panel. The procedures must be clearly articulated within the service's materials. The procedure may include arbitrator, but other procedures are permissible.

The lawyer referral service must establish material panels and establish minimum requirements for eligibility. The number of subject panels necessary will vary from service to service, depending upon the requirements of the community and state served.

Requirements for membership eligibility should include sufficient experience to make sure that the lawyer is qualified within the field of practice. The lawyer referral service should require proof of compliance, which can include certification in affidavit or affirmation form.

How to Contact a California Lawyer Referral Service

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