Ask a Lawyer: For Profit Lawyer Referral Services
In January 2011, the Florida Bar created a Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services to address the dramatic increase in advertising by for-profit lawyer referral services. These referral services wanted people who were injured in automobile accidents to use their attorneys. However, the referral services did not comply with Florida Bar rules regulating attorney services. Therefore, the Florida Bar was concerned and wanted the Special Committee to review the practices of these referral services. The Florida Bar also wanted the Special Committee to consider what rules and regulations the Florida Bar should create to make sure that the public was not harmed or misled in the future.
The Special Committee conducted a study and released its findings in July 2012. First, the Special Committee discussed the historical significance of lawyer referral services. Next, the Special Committee looked at the comments from everyone who spoke at the committee meetings. The Special Committee saw that a lot of the comments involved two of the most well-known for-profit lawyer referral services in Florida: 1-800-ASK-GARY and 1-800-411-PAIN. Several people said that these two companies pressured them into getting chiropractic treatments that they felt were unnecessary. They also felt that these companies encouraged them to sign their legal rights away before they could obtain medical treatment.
After considering what everyone said, the Special Committee concluded that for-profit lawyer referral services could violate Florida Bar rules by engaging in activities that did not serve the public’s interests. The Special Committee pointed out three areas that these for-profit lawyer referral services may break the Florida Bar rules:
- An attorney cannot speak with a prospective client when the prospective client did not ask to speak with them.
- An attorney does not act in the client’s interests when the attorney suggests treatment that the client does not need just so the attorney can get more referrals.
- Employees of these referral services acted like attorneys even though they were not licensed to practice law.