As Director of Communications for the Utah State Bar Association, I am closely involved with helping direct legal representation to those in need in Utah. In addition to its regulatory and member services roles, the Bar previously functioned as a referral source for a public seeking to navigate the sometimes murky waters of our legal system, often under the duress of complex, urgent issues.
Our referral service proved problematic. The enormous volume of calls overwhelmed our staff, having them spend hours listening to lengthy stories from frustrated clients. Attorney participation had been flat for a number of years, likely due to less-than desirable returns from their registration fees. This resulted in budget shortfalls, forcing the Bar to evaluate continued funding of the program. In addition to the negative financial impact on the Bar, member attorneys were missing out on potential revenue, and the needs of many people for representation went unmet-particularly those in the underserved remote areas of our state. Ultimately the Bar terminated our referral service and sought a better way for helping clients find lawyers.
After reviewing various 'legal director' options the directed lawyer advertising forum developed by LegalMatch, Inc. impressed us as a superior, distinct alternative. LegalMatch uses a secure, Web-based interface to inform attorneys and potential clients about one another and to perform screening based on relevant criteria. In contrast to our old system that merely gave names and phone numbers, the LegalMatch services provides more in-depth information to both clients and lawyers. So in January 2004, the Utah State Bar Association undertook a partnership with LegalMatch.
Naturally, in making this commitment, we had to assure ourselves of the integrity and effectiveness of LegalMatch, and its ability to maintain the strictest anonymity and discretion. LegalMatch had to prove that its automated intake process provided pertinent, concise information, enabling our members to make the right advertising decisions based on their practice needs, case load, and suitability. We were also concerned that clients learn more about an attorney than they can from the blizzard of ads in the Yellow Pages-or from speculation, rumor, and word-of-mouth.
Our experience with LegalMatch has exceeded expectations: Clients and attorneys can now gain meaningful information about one another quickly and easily. LegalMatch has dramatically improved our ability to deliver quality representation to underserved middle-income clients and those in outlying areas. And LegalMatch is proving to be outstandingly cost-effective for the Bar Association and its participating members. LegalMatch has given our members a new, innovative opportunity for building their practices. I recommend that other Bar Associations seriously explore this option for their own membership and would be pleased to discuss it further.