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August 25, 2017 Dialogue

ABA LRIS Standing Committee Launches National Data Survey of Programs

By Stephen Steinberg

This year, one of the top initiatives for the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service ("LRIS") is to launch the first ever LRIS Annual Census. We have received responses from over 120 of the approximately 240 LRIS programs in the U.S. and Canada.

The purposes of the census are twofold:

First, with an annual census, the Standing Committee and the LRIS community will readily understand the collective contribution of LRIS programs nationally and their impact to help meet the legal needs of the moderate income public as well as underserved populations. At the same time, the value and benefit to LRIS lawyers will also be quantified. A preliminary analysis of the data shows that LRIS programs last year generated over 500,000 referrals to lawyers, of which over 100,000 became retained cases. Collectively, those retained matters generated over a hundred million dollars in legal fees for participating LRIS attorney panelists. These programs also referred another 500,000 members of the public to needed social or governmental services, legal aid programs, or other community based organizations. Many LRISs offer innovative programs like modest means/reduced fee panels, programs for self-represented litigants like unbundling/discrete task representation, flat fee programs, and call-a-lawyer instant advice, and have specialty programming for minors, seniors, small business owners, and members of the military. LRIS programs continue to thrive and provide trusted solutions to help meet critical needs among the public.

Second, we hope to provide useful data by which LRIS programs can learn more about other programs and themselves. What are the factors that contribute to creating a self-sustaining or well-resourced LRIS? How does your program compare to others from similarly sized geographical areas and comparably-sized bar associations and LRIS memberships? The Census can help us answer some of these questions. Our preliminary analysis reveals that a full 85% generate adequate financial resources to administer and promote their programs, and to innovate in order to continue to serve the public interest. It is hoped that the Census can serve as a comparative tool to be able to better identify the many variables that lead to financial and programmatic sustainability and success, while also enabling programs to identify comparable programs for consultation, if desired. In itself, the Census is like a first stepping stone to the ABA's technical assistance program for lawyer referral organizations, the Program of Assistance and Review ("PAR"), where a program evaluation can be scheduled with PAR consultants to more deeply consider implementation of the factors that lead to a successful LRIS.

The Committee sought to achieve the highest possible rate of participation of LRIS programs because the more complete the data, the more accurate the conclusions. Individual responses will be kept confidential and the overall results will only be shared with other LRISs.

Be among those to hear the final results of the Census and learn from its conclusions at the 2017 National Lawyer Referral Workshop, at which we will share and discuss the status of LRIS programs nationwide.

Stephen Steinberg

Principal, Bartko Zankel Bunzel & Miller

Stephen Steinberg is an intellectual property (IP) and commercial litigator at the law firm of Bartko Zankel Bunzel & Miller in San Francisco, California, focusing his practice on claims for patent and trademark infringement, theft of trade secrets, and other complex business disputes in both federal and state courts.