Consumers looking for legal services have several options. They can ask friends and family for referrals, search the internet, or use a lawyer referral service (LRS). While consumers are increasingly turning to the internet as their primary source to find and vet attorneys, there are many who prefer to talk to a lawyer referral service to find an attorney for their particular legal need.
Most LRSs are community based services that help consumers find a qualified lawyer while providing lawyers with a way to enhance their practice. The State Bar of Michigan (SBM) and several local bar associations sponsor LRSs.
Lawyer Referral Service of the State Bar
The SBM launched a Pilot Lawyer Referral Service earlier this year in order to improve the services offered. The aim of the program is to assist individuals and businesses that need a lawyer and can afford to pay for legal services. At the conclusion of the pilot program, the SBM will have a new online LRS system using emerging technology to improve the intake process, provide a better match of lawyer to consumer, and automate the administrative process for panel members. Information gathered during the pilot program will help design the new program.
A key feature of the Pilot LRS for panel members is the free-of-charge, publicly available enhanced profile in the SBM online Member Directory.
What are the Benefits of Using the SBM Lawyer Referral Service?
Consumers benefit when they contact the LRS (800-968-0738) and speak to a trained staff member who will ask questions about the case and the services needed. If appropriate, the consumer is referred to an attorney near them who practices in the needed area of law. Callers pay a $25 referral fee for up to a 25-minute consultation with a lawyer. Should further representation be required, fees are established between the parties.
Lawyers benefit by increasing their practice with little cost. The clients that come to them as a result of the referral have been vetted, are seeking legal service in the attorney’s area of practice, and can pay for service.
The LRIS rules were revised to accommodate the Pilot program and reflect changes in the general practice of law and technology. For example:
- All communications with the attorneys will be by email
- Rule 4.2 was revised to include full- or part-time practitioners
- Attorneys must still provide suitable office space which can now include meeting clients in space at the SBM, a local bar office, public library, or similar private space
If you’re interested to participating in the Pilot LRIS, go to Become a LRIS Panel Member for more information. Also consider joining the new Modest Means Panel.
Local bar associations are also a source of client referrals. Those offering organized lawyer referral systems include the Genesee County Bar Association LRS, the Grand Rapids Bar Association LRIS, Macomb County Bar Association, Oakland County LRS, and the Washtenaw County Bar Association LRIS.
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides writing services to lawyers ghostwriting content for websites, blogs, and articles. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.
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