Montgomery, Alabama, January 21, 2013 – Once every five-and-a-half minutes, an Alabama citizen calls the Alabama State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) seeking legal assistance. It happened 8,442 times during the past year.
State Bar President Phillip W. McCallum of Birmingham (McCallum Methvin & Terrell PC) noted two important services LRS provides to the public, “First, it helps the client determine if the problem is truly of a legal nature by screening inquiries and referring the individual to other service agencies when appropriate. The second, and perhaps more important function of a lawyer referral service, is to provide the client with an unbiased referral to a licensed attorney who is a member in good standing.”
The referral service matches Alabama lawyers with clients who are in need of legal help, can afford to pay, but don’t know how to locate an attorney to assist them with their particular legal problem. Consumers dial the bar’s toll-free number 1-800-392-5660 and are connected to an LRS operator who helps evaluate how to obtain appropriate assistance. Callers may be referred to a panel attorney who has indicated he or she can handle a matter related to a specific area of the law, or callers might need to be referred to a government agency or other resources that can help resolve the matter.
The areas of law practice that receive the most calls are: (1) family law (divorce, custody/visitation) (2) personal injury, (3) medical malpractice (4) wrongful termination.
ASB referral attorneys agree to charge a nominal fee (sometimes waived) for the first half-hour consultation. If the legal issue requires work beyond this time, the client and lawyer agree on the fee arrangement for going forward.
McCallum said the state Bar encourages clients to ask for a written fee agreement before they proceed with any legal work beyond the first 30-minute consultation.
The service expanded its reach beyond telephone referrals by adding an online referral capability from the bar’s website, alabar.bigdev.co. Internet users receive referrals by typing in a legal practice area and the geographic location where the legal services are required. As with LRS’s telephone referral service, online referrals are made on an impartial, county-by-county, rotation basis.
LRS’s computer system helps ensure an accurate attorney-client match using detailed information provided by panel members. Yellow Pages advertising, brochures, and Internet publicity help to communicate the program’s existence to non-lawyer audiences.
The 17,300-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members; improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.