Bar News - July 6, 2007
How the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service Can Help You
By: Craig Sander
More than 30 years ago, the NH Bar Association began providing New Hampshire attorneys and their potential clients with a new means of contact by creating the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS). The Bar Center receives more than 9,000 calls per year and during 2006, referred attorneys to more than 3,000. Today, LRS has over 200 participating members and is always accepting new applications.
The Lawyer Referral Service targets clients who are able to afford an attorney but are unsure of how to find one, are new to the area, or are calling from out-of-state. LRS uses multiple methods of advertising the service, including the Yellow Pages, district and superior courts, the Attorney General’s office, employee assistance programs, and the Social Security Administration.
The Lawyer Referral Service offers two separate programs:
Full-fee LRS is a program that refers clients to its members. Membership to the full-fee LRS costs $50 per year and clients pay the attorney’s full fee. In return, lawyers who earn money from the LRS referrals agree to pay LRS 10 percent of the net collected legal fees on any case that generates $250.00 or more. The 10 percent charge and $50 membership are used to advertise and fund both the full and reduced-fee programs.
Reduced-fee LRS is a separate program established by the NHBA for clients who are able to pay for an attorney but are not able to pay his or her normal rates. For that reason, attorneys on the Reduced-Fee Panel – membership is free – agree that they will charge no more than $80/hr.
LRS Coordinator Robin Brown reported that cases referred by the service have provided numerous LRS members with generous fees. In fact, Brown said, in both 2005 and 2006, cases from full-fee LRS generated more than $1 million in legal fees. One lawyer, who preferred to remain anonymous, has been referred cases that generated legal fees from $20,000 to $60,000.
Trained staff at the Bar Center handles calls, filtering cases to the most appropriate location. Often someone will call looking for a certain type of attorney, and after questioning, LRS determines that the matter would be better handled by another attorney in another type of practice. For example, a client may call seeking a worker’s compensation attorney. But LRS, after gleaning more information from the client, might determine the issue involves an unpaid wage dispute and therefore recommend an attorney who concentrates on employment law. This screening process results in much less confusion when the client actually speaks to an attorney.
Also, in an effort to make more effective use of the LRS members’ time, LRS staff tries to establish whether or not an attorney is the necessary solution.
In addition to making lawyer referrals, the service directs thousands of callers each year to other programs and civil legal services. For that reason, Brown believes that the Lawyer Referral Service is not only a good way for members to develop a wider client network, but also serves as a valuable public and professional service.
Anyone interested in joining the Lawyer Referral Service can apply online at the NHBA Web site, www.nhbar.org, or can request an application by mail by calling the LRS staff at (603) 224-6942.
In order to join LRS the applicant must have professional liability insurance.