The Jacksonville Bar Association offers Lawyer Referral Service.
People need lawyers and lawyers need clients.
Putting those two parties and their needs together is the concept behind the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service.
Established in 1995 as a separate corporate entity within the JBA, it’s one of 10 similar services offered by The Florida Bar and nine local Bar associations. Along with the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s LRS, it’s one of only two that are approved to meet standards for lawyer referral by the American Bar Association.
“It’s designed for people who can afford a private attorney and they need help now,” said Anthony Adams, service administrator.
Adams said the service has about 80 attorneys who are pre-qualified by the JBA to provide counsel and representation in 45 practice areas, from administrative law to zoning issues.
Panel members must be members in good standing of The Florida Bar and have minimum required levels of experience in some of the practice areas. They must be covered by at least $100,000 in professional liability insurance and have a physical office and address in Jacksonville to interview clients and receive correspondence.
Association members pay $150 a year to participate in the service. They agree to schedule a half-hour consultation with the referred potential client for a $50 fee. If they represent the client, attorneys remit to the service 10 percent of fees they charge the client or of the recover in a settlement or judgment on a contingency basis.
The service receives about 900 calls each month from people looking for an attorney or seeking information about legal services.
After their legal needs are assessed, some callers are referred, based on their income level, to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid or Three Rivers Legal Services.
About 120 potential clients are referred each month to an LRS panel member who specializes in the area of practice their case requires, said Tabitha McMahon, Lawyer Referral Service coordinator.
“No one who calls is told we can’t help them,” Adams said.
Since 2006, the service has sent about $3.2 million in business to panel members. Adams said the program can be particularly valuable to attorneys who are beginning their careers and also to small firms that wish to expand their practice.
For one firm, the service has proven to be the best choice to market legal services in the competitive and costly media environment.
“With most forms of marketing, you have to pay for it before you get the clients. For a small practice such as ours, it’s hard to devote a lot of money to marketing. With the Lawyer Referral Service, you pay for the referral after you’ve worked for the client,” said Bryce Krampert, who established Postillion Law Group with his partner, Christopher Kinnaman, two years ago.
“It helped us boost our client base significantly,” Kinnaman said. “The Bar does an excellent job pre-screening clients, so we get to do more lawyering.”
For Michael Stanski, a former military lawyer who established his sole practitioner office six months ago, the service has helped him find some clients, but he sees another advantage for the legal system in general.
“The Lawyer Referral Service provides an avenue for people to get their cases evaluated,” he said. “I often tell them they don’t have a cause of action. That helps the court system because it prevents an influx of pro se litigants (people who represent themselves in court).”
The service is seeking attorneys who wish to increase their practice in consumer law, landlord/tenant cases and wills and estate planning.
Lawyers interested in becoming a panel member may visit jaxbar.org and click on Join Now. People who’d like to consult with an attorney will find the JBA Lawyer Referral Service on the website under Public Resources.