by Kenneth Thornicroft
“The Lawyer Referral Service is a proven, simple, inexpensive and effective program for matching participating lawyers with potential clients...”
Lawyer Referral Service
The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), which commenced operation in 1955, is a very successful program that has been administered by the CBABC since 1971. The service is funded by the Law Foundation of B.C. and matches members of the public with lawyers who are experienced in a particular field of law. The Lawyer Referral Service is a proven, simple, inexpensive and effective program for matching participating lawyers with potential clients who might otherwise have not sought legal advice or representation.
The LRS receives about 90,000 inquiries and makes more than 50,000 referrals each year.
The LRS is offered for the nominal fee of $10 for a 30-minute consultation. LRS operators receive initial telephone inquiries, determine the nature of the caller’s legal problem, provide the name of an appropriate lawyer in the caller’s community (lawyers are assigned in rotation) and then notify that lawyer of the referral. It is the caller’s responsibility to arrange a suitable appointment time with the lawyer. After the 30-minute consultation has concluded, the client is not obliged to retain the lawyer nor is the lawyer obliged to accept the client’s case.
A survey regarding the LRS was recently forwarded to a sample of lawyers on the LRS roster and a sample of lawyers who had withdrawn from the program. The survey results suggest that while lawyers are generally quite satisfied with the operation of the LRS, many feel that the current $10 fee (which has been in place for many years) should be increased. This is an issue that the Lawyer Referral Service subcommittee is reviewing. Although most respondents viewed the LRS as a potential source of fee-paying clients, virtually all survey respondents who participate in the LRS do so in the spirit of community service and to improve the legal profession’s public image.
Dial-A-Law has more than 130 recorded scripts on file addressing a wide range of discrete legal issues. The most frequently requested scripts deal with family law issues although scripts about estates and representation agreements are also very popular. The scripts are prepared and regularly updated by lawyers – all experts in the particular area of law discussed in the script – who generously volunteer their time and expertise.
The CBABC has operated the Dial-A-Law Service, with financial support from the Law Foundation of B.C., as a free public service since 1982. This service is available through a toll-free telephone number (1.800.565.5297; Lower Mainland: 604.687.4680) and online at www.cba.org/bc. Last year, nearly 30,000 people accessed the service either by telephone or online.
For more information about either program call 604.687.3404 or 1.888.687.3404.
Kenneth Thornicroft, LLB, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Law & Labour Relations in the Faculty of Business, University of Victoria. He is a member of the CBABC Dial-A-Law/Lawyer Referral Advisory Committee.
The Lawyer Referral Service seeks lawyers to accept lawyer referrals. The Dial-A-Law Service seeks volunteers to review and update existing Dial-A-Law scripts or to propose new scripts. For more information about either program call 604.687.3404 or 1.888.687.3404.
This article was published in the April 2004 issue of BarTalk. © 2004 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.