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Revamped Bar LRS sees increased online usage

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LRS LogoThe number of Floridians using the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service — especially those who are connecting with lawyers online instead of calling the service — has increased with the help of a new internet platform.

Figures for the first five months of the new platform developed by Legal.io, show a modest rise in overall referrals from the previous year, but a more than twofold bump in the number using the online side of the service to connect with lawyers.

Since the new system began operations February 6, it has handled 25,235 referrals. That’s already more than half as many as for the entire 2017-18 Bar year, the last full year of the old-style service, which had a smaller online presence. During that five months, 6,257 referrals were facilitated online, more than the entire 2017-18 year.

The new system also appears to have increased the use of the Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service, which went from 72,984 total referrals in 2014-15 to 49,985 in 2017. At its present pace, the new Legal.io system will handle more than 60,500 referrals in its first year.

Perhaps more significantly in an increasingly digital world, 25 percent of the referrals were conducted online rather than calling the LRS phone line. That compares to the previous four years when online activity accounted for 9% to 11% of the total number of referrals.

The Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service operates only in parts of the state — mostly rural areas or mid-sized cities — where local voluntary bars do not offer their own referral services.

Aside from the raw numbers, Bar President John Stewart reported to the Bar Board of Governors in July that during its first five months the service generated $1.1 million in fees for participating Bar members. Twelve percent of that total, or almost $139,000, has been remitted to the Bar to pay for the referral service operations.

Stewart, who spearheaded the overhaul of the referral service when he was chair of the board’s Technology Committee, said he wants to do more to publicize the program.

“Frankly, we only have about 600 lawyers in that system. . . and we are generating about 50,000 referrals,” he said. “So yes, that is a great program. We need to do as much as we can to develop that.”

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