How important is certification?
To operate in California, all lawyer referral services must be certified by the State Bar of California. The reason for this is to provide public protection. To qualify for certification, an LRS must meet certain standards approved by the California Supreme Court and enforced by the State Bar. If you use one of the certified services, you can be assured of the following:
All lawyers who participate in a certified LRS must carry malpractice insurance.
All certified LRSs have lawyers with experience in many legal areas such as family law, personal injury, probate and landlord-tenant law. Many LRSs have subject matter panels, on which lawyers can serve only if they have demonstrated experience in a certain legal area or meet certain other requirements.
There are consumer protections when using a certified LRS’ automated referral system. Some LRSs can assess a potential client’s needs and find a referral to a lawyer through an automated system outside of regular business hours. This may be especially helpful if you need to search for a lawyer in the evenings or on weekends. If you experience problems with the automated system or need help, you should contact the LRS by email or phone during regular business hours.
A certified LRS can give you information about other services or programs if your issue does not require lawyer assistance. Some problems may at first seem to require a lawyer’s help, but actually may not. For example, you may have a problem that can be handled by a rent control board, small claims advisor, or community mediation program. An LRS may be able to direct you to government agencies or other organizations that may be better suited to assist you.
All certified LRSs are required to offer services for people of limited means at a reduced rate. See FAQ #2 for more information.