*24,000 callers requested referrals via phone and Web site
Montgomery, Ala., June 25, 2007 - Once every four minutes, an Alabama citizen calls the Alabama State Bar's Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) seeking legal assistance. It happened 24,000 times last year.
Charles H. Moses, III, of Birmingham (Moses & Moses, P.C.), chair of the state bar's Lawyer Referral Board, said the LRS offers two important services 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 an attorney who has experience in the area of law appropriate to the client's needs."
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 one of 312 panel attorneys experienced in a specific area of the law, or they might need to be referred to a government agency or other resources that can help resolve the matter.
The five areas of law practice that receive the most calls are: (1) medical-malpractice, (2) personal injury, (3) wrongful termination, (4) family law (divorce, custody, child support) and, (5) criminal felony.
ASB referral attorneys agree to charge a nominal fee (often 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.
Moses 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 Alabama State Bar Lawyer Referral Service has been a leader in delivering legal services and information to moderate income clients since its inception in 1978," Moses said.
The service has expanded its reach beyond telephone referrals with the addition of an on-line service. More than five per cent of the LRS referrals are coming from the bar's Web site, www.alabar.org. Interestingly, the use of the Web site has not decreased the number of phone calls to the service, which has remained at more than 12,000.
Internet users access the LRS program through and receive referrals by typing a legal practice area and the geographic location where the legal services are required. As with LRS's telephone referral service, on-line 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 helps to communicate the program's existence to non-lawyer audiences.
The 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.