When you’re faced with a legal situation and you don’t know where to turn, it can be extremely helpful to talk to a qualified attorney who can answer your questions. Sometimes, however, you may not know which attorney to speak to, or where to even get started.

If you don’t already know someone, you may need help locating the right attorney to help you. Even in the state of California where there are a large number of attorneys practicing, it can be difficult to find just the right one. Thankfully, there is no shortage of resources for someone looking for legal help.

What are Lawyer Referral Services?

Many state bar associations offer lawyer referral services. These are services where you can provide a few details about your situation, answer a few intake questions, and receive referrals to lawyers who practice in the areas of law most likely to be helpful to you.

If you’re looking for help in California, the state bar association does things a little bit differently. The California State Bar does not provide legal advice and does not make direct referrals. However, it does maintain a list of various referral services that you can trust.

For an attorney referral service to be listed on the state bar website, it must be certified by the State Bar Association. To be certified by the California State Bar, a lawyer referral service must show that it is in compliance with specific rules and standards under California law. Referral services are generally certified for two years before they need to renew their certification.

Is LegalMatch a Certified Attorney Referral Service in California?

Yes — LegalMatch.com is currently the first and only online matching engine to be certified and licensed as an attorney referral service under the California State Bar (CA Bar Certified Lawyer Referral Service #0140).

Under California State Bar rules, any engine or service that sends potential clients to an attorney may be classified as an attorney referral service. As such, they need to be certified by the California State Bar as a legitimate attorney referral service. As of now, LegalMatch is currently the only matching engine to receive official certification by the California State Bar.

LegalMatch’s services are unique in that a person with a potential legal issue can visit the website, fill out a form and leave information about their case, and then be matched automatically with lawyers near them. Rather than waiting for a manual match, LegalMatch provides quick matches with attorneys who practice in the area of law needed. That way, the person can make their own informed selection based on the attorney’s profile information, and keep their case moving forward.

What About Local Referral Services?

In addition to the certified referral services listed by the state bar, there are also many local bar associations that you can turn to, as well. Most counties and major cities have their own bar associations (like the Bar Association of San Francisco or the Sacramento County Bar Association) that may offer referral services if you’re looking for a lawyer in a specific geographic area.

Keep in mind that these referral services may be limited to the specific town or county that they cover, and may also involve a fee for using the service. Also, some of them may be limited in size in terms of the number of attorneys contained in their network.

What are Private Attorney Referral Services?

In addition to contacting the local city or county bar associations, there are also private lawyer referral services that you can reach out to. Certain private California legal associations may also be able to refer you to a lawyer that will suit specific needs, such as the Mexican American Bar Association of Los Angeles County. Many of the private legal associations will also host free legal clinics to help members of the public receive assistance with certain legal issues, such as family law issues, housing, immigration, or employment issues.

With any referral service, you are not bound to use the names that you are provided. You can choose to contact (or not contact) any of the attorneys that you are referred to. If you are unsatisfied with the results of your request, you can always contact a different service and get a new list of names.

Can I Get Help From Legal Aid?

The California State Bar funds several legal aid organizations across the state to provide legal services to people with low or moderate income — those who may otherwise be unable to afford the services of an attorney.

The state bar website provides a listing of these legal aid groups, many of which serve specific geographical areas or focus on particular areas of interest (like mental health advocacy or disability rights).

However, keep in mind that Legal Aid is often overworked and they are not able to take on every case. Many free legal clinics can only take on specific types of cases, like landlord/tenant issues in a specific city (i.e. San Francisco).

It is very possible that they are unable to represent you. Legal Aid groups do the best they can with the limited resources that they have, so keep in mind that free legal services are not available to everyone.

What Else Should I Know About Using a Lawyer Referral Service?

While they are great resources for finding people to talk to about your case, referral services do have their drawbacks. Keep in mind that there may be fees for using the service, even before you contact an attorney.

Many services charge fees for providing the attorney’s contact information, and then leave it up to you to contact the attorney yourself. The attorney may charge a fee for your initial consultation, as well. LegalMatch, on the other hand, does not charge such fees, and the matching services are done for free online.

That said, you do not have to hire the first lawyer that you have a consultation with. If you are not comfortable with a certain lawyer, then you are free to seek out another, until you find a person with whom you are comfortable enough to trust your case.

Lastly, as mentioned, any entity or company providing lawyer referral services needs to be fully certified by the California State Bar. For your protection, if you are looking to use any such services, be sure to check the certification and credentials of the referral service. Make sure they can provide you with an official CA State Bar Referral Service number.

Should I Hire a California Lawyer?

If you are dealing with a legal issue, and are looking for advice and legal direction in California, it is in your best interests to contact a qualified California lawyer. Although the state bar association does not provide direct referrals, there are still plenty of resources available to you, whether through local bar associations, bar-certified referral services, or private referral services.

If you are still unsure of which service is right for you, you can also work with other organizations like LawyerReferralServices.org, which maintains a comprehensive listing of California lawyer referral services by county. Even when you are dealing with tough and complicated issues, you never have to face them alone.