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 they operate.
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:
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 to contact: