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The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service Rules

The Florida Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) is operated by Florida Bar staff under the supervision of the Lawyer Referral Service Director at The Florida Bar’s Headquarters in Tallahassee. A person may request a referral to a lawyer using a toll-free telephone number or online at the Bar’s website. Florida Bar staff will interview the person and refer that person to a panel member of the LRS on a rotating basis on the person’s agreement to pay an initial consultation fee of no more than $25 to the panel member for a maximum of 30 minutes.

The LRS will not make referrals in any geographic area of the state where a local bar association lawyer referral service exists. See Coverage Areas Map. Referrals in those cases will be made directly to the existing local bar association lawyer referral service.

I. Panel Member Participation

(a) Any Florida Bar member in good standing with no pending findings of probable cause by a grievance committee who maintains a practice in a county not served by any referral service sponsored by or affiliated with any local bar association may qualify as a panel member.

(b) Application for membership is grouped by county.

(c) The LRS will deny the application if, at the time of the initial application, the applicant:

(1) has a grievance matter with a finding of probable cause pending with The Florida Bar or the Supreme Court of Florida, or the applicant has been involved in or received within the past 5 years:

(i) any disciplinary action by The Florida Bar or the Supreme Court of Florida; or

(ii) any judgment, conviction (whether or not adjudicated) or determination in a court or administrative proceeding of the commission of any act of false statement, fraud, dishonesty, or misrepresentation;

(2) has received within the past 10 years:

(i) any determination by The Florida Bar or the Supreme Court of Florida resulting in suspension; or

(ii) disciplinary revocation or resignation or disbarment of the applicant’s license to practice law; or

(3) is currently on probation with The Florida Bar or the Supreme Court of Florida, in which case The Florida Bar LRS will not consider the application until the lawyer has successfully completed the probationary period.

(d) The LRS will deny an application or remove a panel member if the lawyer has:

(1) willfully failed to pay any fee, render any report, or otherwise abide by the rules of the LRS; or

(2) signed any application or other certification or report to the LRS which is found to be untrue in any material respect.

(e) The LRS may suspend a panel member from participation on the LRS for a reasonable time if the LRS receives notice or information giving it reasonable grounds to believe that a panel member does not meet the required standards of responsibility, capability, character, and integrity.

(f) The LRS will suspend any panel member automatically from any further referrals on the Bar’s finding of probable cause in a disciplinary matter. A suspended panel member may apply for readmission to the panel on the conclusion of any disciplinary matter and may be readmitted at the discretion of the LRS Director.

(g) A panel member, in filing an application, agrees to:

(1) hold an initial 30minute office or videoconference consultation for a fee of no more than $25 to any referred client on the Regular Panel;

(2) charge for additional services only as agreed with the client based on the stated objectives of the LRS and the client’s ability to pay;

(3) carry, and continue to carry, professional liability insurance with limits not less than $100,000;

(4) agree to submit to binding arbitration for any fee dispute arising from a referral if the client requests;

(5) set an appointment for all clients referred by the LRS as soon as practical after request is made;

(6) abide by all LRS rules; and

(7) indemnify and hold harmless The Florida Bar and any of its officers, members, or employees from any and all claims, demands, actions, liability, or loss which may arise from, or be incurred as a result of, the operation of the LRS or referrals of clients through the LRS, or by the applicant’s failure to comply with any provision of the LRS rules or use of information contained in the application.

II. Annual Fee for Membership

Each LRS panel member must pay to The Florida Bar a nonrefundable, non-prorated annual membership fee of $125 for all or part of each calendar year (January-December). Annual dues renewals are due on the first business day of January of each year. LRS membership will be suspended if the panel member’s renewal payment is not received by the last day of January.

III. Remittance Fees

Panel members of The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service agree to remit to The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service 12% of any attorneys’ fees for services performed in connection with Regular Panel cases (bankruptcy and Social Security cases are exempt). The person referred pays the initial $25 for the 30-minute office or videoconference consultation fee directly to the attorney. The Florida Bar may use any legal means necessary to collect from a lawyer any unremitted fees due to The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service that resulted from that lawyer’s service as a panel member.

Remittance fees are NOT required for referrals on the Modest Means Panel; clients qualifying for modest means referral are entitled to a free initial 30-minute consultation. Please note that the lawyer will verify income eligibility prior to the initial consultation. Not all areas of law may be handled under this panel.

IV. Withdrawal from Membership

A panel member may withdraw from participation in the LRS with 5-days written notice to The Florida Bar but will not be entitled to a refund of the membership fee. A panel member’s withdrawal from participation in the LRS does not affect any obligation the panel member has to any client referred by the LRS and the panel member will still owe remittance fees for any case referred.

V. Operation of the Panel

(a) The LRS will make referrals to members of the panel in rotation in the geographic area requested by the caller.

(b) Panel members must accept referrals for an initial consultation unless the referral creates a conflict of interest. If the panel member must decline referral for an initial consultation due to a conflict or must decline representation of a person after an initial consultation, the panel member must refer the client back to the LRS. Nothing obligates a panel member to accept employment beyond the initial consultation.

(c) LRS panel members are not permitted to refer LRS cases to other attorneys. Panel members who engage co-counsel in a LRS case must, to the extent practicable, associate another member of the LRS or a lawyer who agrees to become a member or satisfies the LRS requirements. The client and the co-counsel must give express written consent to the LRS participation in the fees to be earned, including the amount. The original panel member must provide the LRS Director with the name, address, and telephone number of the co-counsel and a copy of the written consent above signed by the co-counsel and the client.

(d) The original panel member remains responsible for ensuring that the status of the case and the fees earned are reported and transmitted to the LRS regardless of whether co-counsel also is a LRS panel member. The Director is authorized to release the panel member from reporting and remitting fees on any referred matter as soon as practicable, on a written showing of good cause.

(e) A LRS member who leaves a firm where that firm remains responsible for LRS cases must ensure that the status of all LRS cases is reported to the LRS and any fees due the LRS are remitted timely. Former panel members will continue to receive the Outstanding Monthly Report on LRS online and are required to contact their former firm and ask the firm to report the status of the cases to the LRS and remit any fees due the LRS.

(f) The LRS will not refer a client to LRS panel member outside the county where the client is located unless the client either requests or agrees to that arrangement.

LRS panel members must notify the LRS if there is a period of time of 1 week or more during which the attorney will be unavailable for referrals.

VI. Acknowledgment and Report of Referrals Via The Florida Bar LRS Website

Panel members can view and update the status of referred cases on The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service database by signing into their accounts. Panel members must update case statuses within 30 days of referral. Case status updates should not include any privileged or confidential information. Panel members may pay remittance fees online or by check. Panel members must print the remittance fee form and mail it back to the LRS with the fees owed. All panel members must remit fees timely.  The LRS will suspend any panel member from the LRS if the panel member fails to remit fees timely.

VII. Contacting Prospective Clients

Panel members should not call prospective clients referred to them until the prospective client calls them first. Calling a referred prospective client before the prospective client calls the lawyer is a violation of Rule 4-7.18(a) of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Panel members should not send referred prospective clients any written communication before the prospective client contacts the lawyer. The LRS notifies clients that no one will call them or send them anything before they contact the lawyer. A lawyer violating this rule may be subject to discipline.

VIII. Records and Review

The LRS will keep on file a record of all referrals and reports of panel members which is subject to inspection by the LRS Director and Florida Bar officers. All LRS panel member files will be destroyed after close plus 6 fiscal years in accordance with the bar’s record retention schedule.

Panel members must log into the LRS website to access the record of referrals assigned to them. The LRS will provide to a client who has been referred to more than one panel member only a copy of the list of referrals that have been provided to that client. LRS records prepared for the bar’s Lawyer Regulation Division are confidential in accordance with Chapter 3 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

IX. Publicity

The LRS will be publicized to fulfill its objectives consistent with Florida Bar Ethics and Advertising Rules.