1. What is a lawyer referral service?
2. How can a lawyer referral service help me?
3. How does a lawyer referral service work?
4. Where should I look for a lawyer referral service?
5. How important is certification?
6. Who operates lawyer referral services?
7. How much will I have to pay?
8. What should I do if I believe my lawyer has done something wrong?
Certified lawyer referral services refer potential clients to attorneys. Staff or an automated referral system at the certified lawyer referral service will try to match people looking for lawyers with attorneys who are qualified to provide legal services to the public. You will then see the lawyer for an initial consultation or speak to the lawyer on the phone or through a video call or videoconferencing.
If you need legal help, a certified lawyer referral service may be able to put you in touch with a lawyer who can help you with your problem. If your problem can be resolved without a lawyer, the service may try to provide information or the names of other organizations or agencies that may be able to help you.
When you contact a certified lawyer referral service by phone or online, you will be asked about your situation. If you have a legal problem, the certified lawyer referral service will try to arrange an initial consultation for you, or give you the name and number of a lawyer you can contact directly to arrange a consultation. Some certified lawyer referral services will use technology to provide you a referral to a lawyer through an automated system. There is usually a fee for the referral. In some cases, the referral may be free, or may include the initial consultation with the lawyer. After the initial consultation, it is up to you whether or not you want to hire the lawyer.
For a complete list of State Bar-certified lawyer referral services, visit the State Bar’s website at www.calbar.org/lrs. For phone numbers of certified lawyer referral services in your county, call 866-44-CA-LAW (866-442-2529). If you are out of state, you can call 415-538-2250.
Be sure to look for the lawyer referral service’s State Bar certification number, which must appear in all advertising.
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, a lawyer referral service must meet certain standards approved by the California Supreme Court and is accountable to the the State Bar of California. Because the State Bar enforces these standards, if you have a problem with a certified lawyer referral service, you may file a complaint with the State Bar. If you use one of the certified services, you can be assured of the following:
Most certified lawyer referral services are operated by local bar associations or nonprofit legal services programs. Some lawyer referral services are operated on as for-profit organizations by businesses or lawyers. Both nonprofit and for-profit certified lawyer referral services are held to the same standards under the certification rules of the State Bar.
Most certified lawyer referral services charge a fee — about $40 to $75 — for a referral to a lawyer. This referral fee sometimes includes the initial consultation with the lawyer(s). During the initial consultation, you can explain your situation and ask questions that will help you decide whether you want to hire the lawyer. Importantly, under the State Bar rules, the combined referral fee and the fee for the attorney cannot cost more than it would if the client found the attorney directly. For more information on hiring a lawyer, read the free Finding the Right Lawyer legal guide.
If you cannot afford to pay a lawyer, inform the certified lawyer referral service. If the certified lawyer referral service cannot provide the legal help you need at the price you can afford to pay, the certified lawyer referral service may be able to recommend a free legal services program in your area depending on the nature of your issue and your income.
If you believe your lawyer has done something wrong, you can file a complaint online or by calling the State Bar’s Attorney Complaint Hotline at 800-843-9053.
For more information on reporting a lawyer to the State Bar and handling other problems, read the legal guide Having a Problem With Your Lawyer?
Lawyer referral services must be certified by the State Bar and meet certain standards set out in State Bar Rules. If you have a complaint about the certified lawyer referral service, you can file a complaint against the service with the State Bar. For more information on certified lawyer referral services, contact the State Bar at:
Lawyer Referral Services
The State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
415-538-2250 (for out-of-state callers)