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May 19, 2017 Dialogue

A Case Study from Cincinnati LRS

By Jamie Shiverdecker

As an LRS Director, I am constantly focused on everything involving the LRS consumer. What marketing efforts cause a client to call? How was their experience?  Did the client hire the referred attorney? These questions are always on my mind and I sometimes forget about the other very important side of the referral experience:  our panel attorneys. As the Cincinnati Bar Association is undergoing so many transformations, including big changes in our LRS, it has become even more important to evaluate the needs, wants, and satisfaction rating of our panel members.

While it is sometimes scary to put your business up for review by its constituents, it can prove to be extremely helpful and even validating. The following summarized results come from a survey that was sent out with our annual dues this year. Panelists had the option to complete it via hard copy or an online portal. Out of nearly 240 attorney panelists, we had an outstanding 24% participation rate over a two month period.

The vast majority of panelists find their LRS membership to be beneficial and helpful to their legal practice. Specifically, 86% of respondents find their membership beneficial and 75% of respondents find that the LRS has increased their client base. Despite this positive result, to improve our business we must still be concerned about those panelists who answered “no” on these two topics.

The survey results revealed that a significant portion of panelists are concerned about both the quantity and the quality of their referrals. In particular, the survey found that 27% of panelists disagreed that the LRS provides an adequate number of referrals and 38% of panelists disagreed that the LRS provides quality referrals. The main concerns expressed include not receiving a call after the referral was made and the quality of the referrals, however, panelists have also expressed that they are not sure how to resolve these issues.

Although we are in the very initial stages of reviewing results from this survey and turning them into resolutions, it is certainly validating that our members find us useful. At the same time it is concerning, but not surprising, that members do not feel they are receiving the amount and quality of referrals they want. Our referral service has been hearing similar comments for as long as I can remember. To address this, we have tried several different strategies. We have tried educating our staff with attorney lunches so that the staff members are better trained to make quality referrals. We also have provided a robust list of community organizations where we can send callers who either do not need an attorney or cannot afford one. While these strategies have helped, the answer to these concerns is not easy and we have yet to find a complete “catch all” to provide only top notch referrals.

Lastly, we asked our panelists an open-ended question about the very real scenario of moving a good portion of our operations to an online forum that may include automating referrals. The overall concern with an automated referral system was obvious:  Panelists expressed concern that the automated referrals would not be screened like a live interview would. That being said, 50% of respondents to this question were favorable to something new, and even commented on the possibility of bringing in more referrals this way.

We are constantly seeking solutions to take on the issues of decreasing intake staff and increasing online competitors. This is why we are looking to move many operations online, although we are still in the process of figuring out what exactly that will look like. Maintaining live response by phone is at the heart of the traditional LRS model and distinguishes it from online resources, but that doesn’t mean we cannot compete with online legal service delivery platforms. Each model, ethically deployed, strengthens the other.

Although the results of the survey were not surprising, it has provided some important benchmarks for our service that we will certainly use as we move forward. Surveying panelist annually in the coming years has become an important piece of our calendar as we not only want to serve our callers, but our members as well. A huge thank you to Wendy Cozby at the Nashville Bar Association for providing us with a template that we used for our survey.

Jamie Shiverdecker

Director and Project Manager, Cincinnati Bar Association

Jamie Shiverdecker is the director and project manager of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service at the Cincinnati Bar Association.