Attorney referral services are resources that assist individuals in finding a lawyer, also called an attorney, that practices in the legal field their case involves. These services are typically run by the bar association of a particular state. Depending on the size of the state, they may be broken down further by the state’s affiliated city or county bar associations.
For example, if an individual is searching for an attorney in Pennsylvania, they could begin by using the lawyer referral service of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. The Pennsylvania Bar Association lawyer referral service (PBA LRS) is available in 45 of the 67 counties in the state.
It is important to note that the PBA LRS does not offer free legal advice. There is no cost to be matched with an attorney or to contact the attorney but there is a fee for the initial consultation. The initial consultation, which generally lasts 30 minutes, will cost no more than $30.
If an individual in Pennsylvania cannot afford an attorney, they may seek advice from the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network. This is a statewide consortium of independent legal aid programs that provide civil legal assistance to individuals and families with low income.
Where Should I Start My Search for an Attorney?
The search for an attorney can be overwhelming. Getting started is often the most difficult step. Usually, when the need for an attorney arises, one is needed quickly and there is not much time for research. However, finding an experienced, reputable attorney is not always a simple task.
There are many resources available in Pennsylvania to help an individual locate an attorney who is right for their needs and their specific legal problem. It is important to remember that an individual does not have to select the first attorney they contact. Even if they have an initial consultation, they are still not obligated to hire that attorney.
A great place to begin the search for an attorney is the lawyer referral service in Pennsylvania. In many cases, if the state bar service an individual contacts does not serve their specific area, they will be able to provide contact information for a service that does. Each state in the United States has its own state bar association.
Licensed attorneys in each state are required to be members of their state’s bar association. Most state bar associations have a lawyer referral service to assist the public in their search for an attorney.
As noted above, the Pennsylvania Bar Association has a LRS, which serves 45 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Other counties in the state may have their own lawyer referral services or bar associations.
In order to utilize their services, the easiest thing to do is to call the PBA. They also have an online contact form on their website. An individual searching for an attorney may wish to visit the PBA website, specifically, the section on how to find a lawyer.
Are All Attorneys Listed in a Lawyer Referral Service (LRS)?
No, not all practicing attorneys are listed in a lawyer referral service (LRS). Those who are, choose to be listed there and often specify what their practice areas are. For example, if an individual is seeking a divorce, they will want to search for a lawyer referral that includes attorneys who specialize in divorce or family law.
Attorneys who list themselves in a lawyer referral service agree to offer their services for reduced prices. They offer short consultations to individuals who use the LRS. There is no charge for contacting a LRS to request an attorney referral.
If an individual resides in a Pennsylvania county that is not covered by the Pennsylvania Bar Association LRS, they can check with the bar association in their county to see if a referral service is available. The information regarding counties not covered as well as their phone numbers are available on the PBA website.
Some cities also have their own bar associations or lawyer referral services. For example, Philadelphia has its own bar association that includes a lawyer referral service. It may be utilized by putting an individual’s information into a website form or by contacting them by phone.
What is the Rule on Pennsylvania Lawyer Referral Service and Fees?
Pursuant to the Pennsylvania code, an attorney cannot accept a referral from a LRS if the LRS engaged in communication with the public or direct contract with prospective clients in a manner that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct if that communication were made directly by the lawyer.
A LRS is any individual, group, association, entity, or organization that receives a fee or charge for referring or causing the direct or indirect referral of a potential client to an attorney drawn from a specific group of attorneys.
In other words, the LRS must communicate with the public following the same ethical rules as the attorneys themselves. There are no specific rules regarding fees and amounts that can be charged statewide but the PBA LRS does set rules regarding consultation fees and referral fees for its attorney members.
What other Lawyer Referral Services are Available?
In addition to those discussed above, there are also other lawyer referral services that are available in Pennsylvania to serve more specific needs. For example, the Middle District Bankruptcy Bar Association provides referral services for people who need representation for a bankruptcy, who meet poverty guidelines, and who are in the mid-state area.
These specialty associations will not be as large as statewide bar associations. Therefore, they will not have as many attorneys who do referral work for them.
As noted above, an individual may contact some referral services of bar associations primarily by phone. However, there are some LRS programs which have websites that allow an individual to input some of their information to start the process of finding an attorney. Whether an individual calls or goes online, they will begin the referral process by giving the basics about their legal issue to the LRS.
The LRS will then match the individual with an available attorney based on the type of legal issue provided. The LRS will provide the contact information of the attorney. The individual can then set up an initial consultation with that attorney to determine whether or not they are right for the case. There will be a small fee for this consultation. It is important to note that since the consultation fees are so reduced, it is possible to consult with several attorneys to find the one with whom the individual is most comfortable.
In order to remain in good standing as a licensed attorney, all attorneys must adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct for their particular state. Any lawyer who is qualified to represent a client and who offers their services through a LRS program is bound by the ethical code which applies in their state.
These rules include not only matters of how an attorney should conduct themselves ethically, but also includes rules regarding fees or referrals. An attorney can be reported for a violation of the rules of conduct. The LRS will generally have a manner in which to report any unethical conduct by an attorney.
What other Attorney Matching Services are There?
If you have any legal issues in Pennsylvania, it is essential to have the help of an experienced Pennsylvania lawyer. It is always beneficial to do your own research and make sure you find an attorney you are comfortable with, as you will be required to share a lot of personal information with that attorney.
If you qualify for financial assistance, you may be able to obtain discounted or free legal services at your local legal aid office. It is important to note these offices do not usually handle criminal matters and have requirements on civil matters.
There are also other excellent services, including LegalMatch, that can connect you to a Pennsylvania lawyer. LegalMatch is different from a LRS in that your case is submitted to local attorneys and the attorneys can reach out to you and inform you if they are able to take your case. Having an attorney often defines the success or failure of your claim.