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So what is a LRS?

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So what is a LRS?

When it comes to dealing with private lawyer referral services, 26 states have a direct approach, according to a report from the ABA.

In their rules, those states say that lawyers may participate only in not-for-profit LRS programs.

“This restriction is imposed either by the plain language of the rule itself or through some other interpretive analysis, such as an ethics opinion,” said the report from the ABA’s Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service. “Regardless of whether this restriction is imposed, the majority of states regulates LRS programs solely through enforcement directed toward attorney compliance with the rule by a state’s disciplinary authority.”

Only a handful of states — including Florida — have rules specifying the conduct of referral services in which lawyers can join. The scope of those rules varies widely. Other states with such regulations are California, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

In addition, both California and Texas have statutory regulation of LRS programs as well as bar rules. (In both states, the state bar is co-regulated by their respective supreme courts and legislatures.)

Definitions of what constitutes a lawyer referral service vary among states (Florida has one of the more detailed definitions), particularly when the Internet is involved. One question is: Do companies that use the Internet to match potential clients and lawyers count as referral services? (The State Bar of Utah uses LegalMatch as its official lawyer referral service.)

“Thus far, six states examining this question have determined that online lawyer-client matching services may not, under stated conditions, be prohibited under court rules regulating lawyer referral services. These states are Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas,” the report said. “Five states — Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, New York, and Washington — looking at similar services have determined that these services may be prohibited under their LRS rules.”

The question of whether those matching services are referral services often depends on whether there is a person connecting a potential client to the lawyer.

“Where states have found online, for-profit matching services prohibited, they have done so when finding that such services employ a similar intermediary making discretionary attorney-client matching decisions, rather than merely a computer system making automated matches based on client-selected criteria and without human intervention,” the report said.

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