A lawyer referral service refers potential clients to attorneys. This means that if you want to talk to a lawyer, a lawyer referral service is a good place to call. The lawyer referral service staff will interview you and, if you have a legal problem, will match you with a lawyer who is experienced in the appropriate area of law. You will then see the lawyer for an initial consultation or speak to the lawyer on the phone.
In California, lawyer referral services must be certified by the State Bar and must conform to certain standards adopted by the California Supreme Court.
If you need legal help, a certified lawyer referral service can put you in touch with a lawyer who can help you with your problem. And if your problem can be resolved without a lawyer, the service will try to provide information or the names of other organizations or agencies that may be able to help you.
When you call a lawyer referral service, you will be asked about your situation. If you have a legal problem, the lawyer referral service will arrange an initial consultation for you, or give you the name and number of a lawyer whom you can contact directly to arrange a consultation. There is usually a small charge for the consultation, but it may, in some cases, be free. After the initial consultation, it is up to you whether or not you want to hire the lawyer.
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 that you use a lawyer referral service that is certified by the State Bar. Lawyer referral services must be certified by the State Bar to operate in California and must list their certification number in all advertising. State Bar-certified lawyer referral services also must follow certain rules to protect clients.
Certification means that a lawyer referral service meets certain standards approved by the California Supreme Court. Because the State Bar enforces those standards, if you have a problem with a lawyer referral service, the State Bar can provide you with a complaint form and look into your complaint.
Certification also means that if you use any one of the certified services, you can be assured of the following:
Most lawyer referral services are operated on a nonprofit basis by local bar associations or legal services programs. Some lawyer referral services are operated on a for-profit basis by businesses or lawyers. A certified lawyer referral service cannot be owned by a lawyer who receives more than 20 percent of all referrals or by a group of lawyers who together receive more than 20 percent of all referrals. Both non-profit and for-profit lawyer referral services are held to the same standards under the State Bar’s certification rules.
Most lawyer referral services charge only a nominal fee — such as $30 — for an initial consultation with a lawyer. Some offer a free first-time consultation. During the initial consultation, you can explain your situation and ask questions that will help you decide whether you want to hire the lawyer.
For more information on hiring a lawyer, you also can read the State Bar pamphlet Finding the Right Lawyer.
If you cannot afford to pay a lawyer, tell the person who takes your call at the lawyer referral service. Many lawyer referral services can refer you to a program or individual lawyer who will charge a reduced fee or perhaps even render free services if you qualify. If the lawyer referral service cannot provide the legal help you need at the price you can afford to pay, the service may be able to recommend a free legal services program in your area.
Bring your concerns to the lawyer referral service. If your complaint is not easily resolved, you can file a complaint against the attorney 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, the State Bar offers a pamphlet, Having a Problem With Your Lawyer?
You should file a complaint against the lawyer referral service with the State Bar.