From the Chair...

Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service

Developing the Lawyer Referral Brand Promise: Partnering with Panel Attorneys

The benefits of last summer's LRIS Leadership Forum are still emerging. One of the ideas that first developed at the meeting was that the "brand promise" of lawyer referral ultimately rested with the individual panel attorney. While much attention has been paid to the individual attorney from the perspective of ensuring that the individual met the professional standards that we all want public service lawyer referral to represent — the highest integrity in professional practice management standards and professional competence — little time has been spent providing the attorney with tools to achieve competence in general practice issues.

To address that issue a Task Force on CLE Opportunities was formed, comprised of your colleagues from around the country: Brant Bittner, executive director of the Orange County Bar, FL; Carla Brown, LRIS Director, Atlanta GA; Rodney Low, Program Developer, State Bar of California; and George Wolff, LRIS Director, Oregon State Bar. A plan developed to focus on imparting technology information necessary for a solo and small firm practitioner to compete in the current marketplace. It also quickly became apparent that we would need monetary sponsorship in order to offer these programs at an affordable rate. We were able to secure the considerable talents of Dan Pinnington, Vice President of Claims Prevention and Stakeholder Relations, Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company, of Toronto, CN to develop the program. Dan is a remarkable person who knows everyone and is respected by everyone. His area of particular expertise is legal technology, and he has the distinction of chairing a past ABA TECHSHOW which is the annual premier event for legal technology professionals. Dan developed the program and secured the speakers for our CLE series — Future Friday Seminars: Strengthening your practice through technology.

We were also able to put our plan in front of CEO's of the National Association of Bar–Related Insurance Companies, the mutual legal malpractice insurance companies that serve solo and small firm practitioners in their respective states. Recognizing that their insured attorneys were also the solo and small firm practitioner, we were able to secure sponsorship for the series from: Minnesota Lawyers Mutual, Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual, The Bar Plan (MO); Oklahoma Lawyers Mutual; and Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of North Carolina.

I am pleased to announce that the plan has come together. Under separate cover you will already have received information about the series and its availability for your LRIS panel attorneys. As part of the effort, we are also collaborating with the Group and Prepaid Legal Services Committee to offer the series to their panel attorneys. We are eager to hear what thoughts you may have about other CLE programs that would be helpful to your panel attorneys.

On another note of collaboration, in past years, the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Services would customarily meet three times a year – in January at varying locations, in June in Chicago, and in October at the National Lawyer Referral Workshop. However, as you may be aware, the ABA has been faced with more and more difficult budgets in recent years, and has been looking for ways to cut costs.

Consequently, the Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services, the Standing Committee on Group and Prepaid Legal Services, and the Lawyer Referral and Information Service Committees held a joint meeting to discuss common issues, and we did so at the ABA Mid–Year meeting a few weeks ago in Dallas.

Each committee discussed its mission and identified its major projects. On behalf of our committee, I explained our Program of Assistance and Review (PAR) and also our certification of lawyer referral services as meeting ABA standards and receiving the authorization to use the ABA LRIS logo and slogan. It is very clear to me that no one else does — or even could attempt to perform — these two functions.

During the course of the discussion with the other two committees, I did see some synergies with the other committees. Prior to this meeting we had already discussed collaborating on the CLE series, with the Group and Prepaid Legal Services Committee and the Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services.

While I have gazed into my crystal ball, I cannot yet tell you what other future collaborations may emerge. We remain open to possibilities and look forward to hearing from you on what we can do to make your lawyer referral program more productive.