The Florida Bar

August 18, 1972

The Ethics Committee lacks jurisdiction to provide an answer to a question relating to a county bar association's lawyer referral service which has not yet qualified with The Florida Bar.

CPR: DR 2-103(D)(1)(d)
Integration Rule: Art. XIV

Chairman Clarkson stated the opinion of the committee:

A member of a small law firm which practices in a county of moderate size poses the following inquiry dealing with “legal aid or legal assistance.”

In cooperation with the county bar association the firm has undertaken the administration of a county-wide legal aid and legal assistance program. The inquiring lawyer advises us in part as follows:

The administration of this program requires that this office interview every person requesting legal aid or legal assistance in this county. Legal Aid is an unfunded program, voluntarily operated by the county bar association, and consists of attorneys working without cost for clients who merely pay filing fees and other direct expenses. Legal Assistance is a program whereby clients pay the county's established minimum fee over a protracted period of time, on such terms as they may agree upon with their attorneys. Legal Assistance clients, of course, also pay all costs.

As the volunteer headquarters for this program, this office has the responsibility of evaluating cases and making recommendations to the county bar committee on how the aforementioned legal aid and legal assistance clients should be disposed of. The Committee can recommend either that a client be given outright legal aid or legal assistance, or that the client be informed he has sufficient means to retain private counsel on a nonlegal aid or legal assistance basis.

For the purpose of handling legal aid matters, a list of all attorneys in the county has been compiled. As legal aid cases become established, clients are assigned to attorneys from this list on a rotating (alphabetical) basis.

Our advice is sought whether the screening firm may with propriety handle any of the cases which prove to be outside the realm of legal aid, either because they qualify as “legal assistance” matters or because they are ineligible for either category of special assistance.

A majority of the Committee believes that the question submitted relates to a lawyer referral service which must qualify with The Florida Bar under Article XIV of the Integration Rule, as a result of which we have no jurisdiction to provide an answer. The county bar association should apply to The Florida Bar, whose approval of a charter to operate a lawyer referral service would be controlling.

The Committee sees no objection to the proposal for handling “legal aid” cases on a no-fee basis. See DR 2-103(D)(1)(d).

[Revised: 08-24-2011]