What if you can’t have an LRS?
The State Bar of Arizona’s mandatory structure means that it can’t give referrals, Rodriguez said—but consumers don’t know that. In fact, he noted, the bar’s website receives 7,000 visits a year from members of the public looking for legal help.
As a way to help guide consumers without crossing a regulatory line, the bar launched its Find a Lawyer portal in May 2018. The portal walks consumers through three easy steps, Rodriguez said. Once one or more lawyers express interest in the case, the consumer then follows up and makes the connection and decision. This means the bar itself isn’t in the position of actually making the match, as in traditional lawyer referral.
Consumers can choose the level of experience they need their lawyer to have, which is commensurate with the amount they’re willing to pay. In the first year, Rodriguez said, 5,890 projects (or cases) were posted by consumers, and out of those, 1,400 requested pro bono services—which has helped dispel an early misconception that no one would use the portal to find lawyers whom they would pay.
Currently, Rodriguez said, 350 members have subscribed, which costs them $300 per year (it’s free for consumers to use). The top five most requested areas of law are family law, labor and employment, real estate, wills and trusts, and personal injury.
The bar had an initial challenge in obtaining buy-in from legal aid organizations, Rodriguez said. However, the state’s legal aid agencies, which are at capacity, now refer people to Find a Lawyer if they are unable to help them.
Member participation has been growing steadily, Rodriguez said, but with 24,000 members, there’s still plenty of room. The bar’s Arizona Attorney magazine has helped promote Find a Lawyer via a feature story and print ads, he said; public relations, social media, and offering free trials at events are other tools that have been used to boost subscriptions.
Current subscribers also help sell the idea to other members, Rodriguez said, noting that one member recently provided a perfect quote when they said more members should use Find a Lawyer because “'potential clients are spoon-fed to us.’”