August 26, 2020 Feature

LegalMatch Must Be Regulated as a Lawyer Referral Service

Just forwarding potential clients to lawyers warrants regulatory oversight

By Benjamin E. Long

An online service provider that merely forwards potential clients to lawyers without analyzing their cases must be regulated under state law as a lawyer referral service. The decision in Jackson v. LegalMatch.com elevated the need to protect the public from unethical solicitation over making it easier for people to locate an attorney to take their case. ABA Section of Litigation leaders warn that this broad interpretation could have far-reaching effects that might apply to internet search engines and lawyers who use these online referral services.

LegalMatch matched consumers with multiple local lawyers, and the consumers then choose who to hire

LegalMatch matched consumers with multiple local lawyers, and the consumers then choose who to hire

Credit: UnitoneVector | Getty Images Plus

Should a Forwarding Service Be Regulated?

LegalMatch sued a former member attorney in a California state court for not paying his subscription fees. LegalMatch operates a website that allows consumers to locate lawyers. The service is free for the public, but lawyers pay a subscription fee to become members and to be connected to potential clients in their geographic region and registered area of practice. Consumers provide their location and the legal category that applies to their issue. That information is then forwarded to lawyers who are subscribers to LegalMatch.

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