Good Legal Advice For The Average American
Is Only A Telephone Call Away
William G. Paul
President of the American Bar Association
Chances are most Americans will never need extensive legal advice.
Their legal problems do not rise to the complicated level of corporations, moguls, politicians and rock stars.
Most Americans live quietly, without dispute with their neighbors, who also donít require legal counsel. These individuals might not even know lawyers, except those who serve on local school boards or in other community service capacities.
If you ask these middle-class Americans if they know where to get competent legal service, they canít answer with authority. Neither can their neighbors. They could give a newcomer to their town references for a good dentist, doctor, veterinarian or the best dry cleaner in the area but not a lawyer.
This is not always a good thing.
A recent American Bar Association survey found that four out of 10 legal problems in the United States are not being addressed in our legal system. Some never get to the system because the parties involved can solve the problem without involving the courts, which is good. However, many other issues are neglected because most Americans donít know where to turn for reasonable and competent legal advice.
In fact, help is close at hand in every community in the nation, through local and state bar associations, which operate lawyer referral programs as a public service. In operation for more than 50 years, lawyer referral does not give legal advice or free legal services. It serves as a conduit for the caller to receive appropriate legal help.
The lawyers participating in lawyer referral services handle problems such as buying and selling a home, consumer issues, credit and bankruptcy matters, employment problems, starting a business, accidents and injury claims, or writing a will.
For those worried about the cost, the charge for the initial consultation is minimal. The referral is free. Questions asked during the initial call enable referral intake staff to decide whether a lawyer is really needed. Callers who do not need a lawyer may be referred to another community or government agency for help.
If a lawyer is required, the charge for the initial consultation with the LRS lawyer generally runs in the $20 to $30 range. After this first meeting, the client can decide whether or not to retain the lawyer. If the lawyer is retained, the ABA strongly urges the client to get a written fee agreement.
Callers to bar-sponsored lawyer referral services can have confidence that the lawyers are competent.
Lawyer referral programs ensure that participating lawyers are in good standing with the state bar association and are qualified in the referred areas of practice.
The ABA does not operate or sponsor LRS programs. It has adopted standards for programs that operate in the public interest. Programs displaying the ABA logo meet these standards.
This is a good thing, a very good thing.
Annually more than seven million people nationally call LRS programs to locate a qualified lawyer.
Anyone seeking local LRS help can consult their local Yellow Pages ® or visit the ABA web site at www.abanet.org/referral.