A lawyer referral service is commonly offered by state or local bar associations
as a public service to state residents. However, private, for-profit referral
services also exist, but they have been the subject of controversy and
questionable business practices in recent years.
The Florida Bar defines a lawyer referral service as:
“Any group or pooled advertising program operated by any person,
group of persons, association, organization, or entity wherein the legal
services advertisements utilize a common telephone number or website and
potential clients are then referred only to lawyers or law firms participating
in the group or pooled advertising program.”
Types of Lawyer Referral Service Providers in Florida
Florida residents might be familiar with local radio and television commercials
advising accident injury victims to call a hotline for assistance. Two
popular Florida service providers are 411-PAIN and 1-800-ASK-GARY. Both
services claim to be a one-stop-shop for the legal and medical needs after
a car accident. These organizations are classified as for-profit lawyer
referral services. For-profit referral services are not endorsed by the
state, as the Florida Bar does not have jurisdiction to enforce rules
against non-attorneys, and therefore cannot verify the standards by which
Alternately, the Florida Bar operates a
not-for-profit referral service intended to facilitate the process of finding
a local lawyer for a specific area of law. The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral
Service is the only state-sanctioned referral program.
Generally, any lawyer referral service should follow the same two basic steps:
- A call is answered by a lawyer referral staff member who takes the caller’s
contact information and asks the caller to briefly summarize their legal issue.
- The staff member then provides the name, address, and telephone number
of an attorney in the caller’s geographic vicinity who handles the
type of case described by the caller.
Note – these two steps are sanctioned by the Florida Bar as referral
service “best practices.” The steps followed when contacting
a private, for-profit lawyer referral service may differ substantially.
Buyer Beware – Advice Regarding Lawyer Referral Services
Anyone considering contacting a lawyer referral service, particularly car
accident victims, should conduct some basic internet research and explore
more than one option for legal services. Combine the name of the referral
service along with the term “complaints” using your favorite
search engine. The results returned by your search might tell you a lot
about which services you don’t want to use.
Additionally consider a few questions about the referral service you plan
Who owns the referral service? For-profit services exist to make money. If the service is owned by chiropractors
and physical therapists, there is a strong possibility that the referral
service exists to direct accident injury victims toward a specific clinic
group or organization in common. A service sponsored, or provided by,
the Florida Bar is more likely to offer general and impartial options
How quickly do I need a lawyer? Car accident victims are subject to legal deadlines when it comes to certain
claims. However, any agency advising clients to call from the scene of
an accident may not have the victim’s best interests in mind. The
scene of an accident is stressful, and is likely the worst place to make
a decision about legal representation. It is perfectly acceptable to research
and evaluate your options and call one or two days after an accident.
Is the referral service pushy? Nobody calling a lawyer referral service should get the feeling of being
“pitched”. The referral service should be informative and
provide options. Ask a family member or friend to refer you to an attorney.
If you’re in contact with your referral service, mention the attorney
or medical provider your family has recommended. A referral service with
the clients’ best interests in mind will welcome your suggestion
and have no vested interest in steering you toward one of their listed