The short answer is that they do provide some help in getting an attorney referral. However, the services they provide can be limited. Also, not all bar associations provide referrals. You may have to check with your state and county bar associations to find a referral services. 

Which Bar Associations Can Help?

On a national level, the American Bar Association (ABA) provides some help in finding a lawyer. While the ABA does not offer an attorney referral service itself, its website does offer a first step. After picking the state where you need a lawyer, the ABA’s site presents a number of different attorney referral services. These include both County Bars and private attorney referral services. 

However, the ABA's list can be a bit overwhelming, and not too helpful depending on your location and need. For example, after selecting California, the site produces a list of over 60 different attorney referral services. Of these, 20 different services cover the Los Angeles area alone.

Even though the ABA’s attorney referral service is a bit flawed, it is more than many state bars will provide. The California State Bar simply says that it cannot provide any lawyer referrals. Instead, it recommends that you contact a private attorney referral service.  Many other State Bars, such as New York, simply provide the phone numbers of their County Bars. 

County Bar Associations offer a much better attorney referral service. For example, both the Los Angeles County Bar and the San Francisco County Bar offer lawyer referral services on their websites. After filling out an easy-to-use form on the Los Angeles County Bar’s site, an attorney referral is immediately provided to you. The only problem is the LA County bar's referral program is limited – you only receive one referral, and must call the County Bar to explain why that referral is not acceptable. 

The San Francisco County Bar also has an easy-to-use form, but the referral is delayed. After reviewing your information the County Bar will send you an attorney referral, but this process takes 1 to 2 days.

How Can I Choose a Referral Service?

The ABA offers a good first step by providing information about different referral services. However, this information can be difficult to navigate.  If you are not choosy about who your lawyer is, or if you are not in a rush to find an attorney, then County Bar Associations may be the way to go.  However, if you are in a rush and picky (like most people looking for a lawyer) then Bar Associations may not work for you.

For a full review of attorney referral services in your area, check out this website: Lawyer Referral Services