As most of you know, the CCCBA Lawyer Referral & Information Service assists the public in referrals to qualified attorneys to help meet their legal needs. What you may not know, however, are the many ways your LRIS can help both clients and attorneys in the family law area of practice.
The LRIS takes approximately 75-100 calls each month from clients looking for some sort of assistance with a family law issue, from adoptions and dissolutions to same-sex relationships. Each caller is carefully screened by LRIS trained intake staff for their particular needs.
The client is charged a $30 administrative fee and our staff contacts an LRIS attorney to schedule an appointment for a 30-minute consultation. The client and the attorney then meet and discuss the client’s particular issues. The LRIS also has several other options available for clients, depending on their individual situation.
Moderate Means Program
The Moderate Means program has been established by the CCCBA in order to provide clients unable to afford the regular fees of a private practicing attorney with a referral to a family law attorney who has agreed to take on certain cases on a reduced-fee basis.
These clients go through a detailed application process and are qualified based on their income and the number of people in their household, and must provide proof of this income. The Moderate Means program has set up eligibility guidelines for this process. Family law attorneys can indicate that they wish to take on Moderate Means referrals as well as regular referrals when they join the LRIS.
The difference between these cases and regular LRIS referrals is that the attorney pays no percentage fees to the LRIS on Moderate Means cases, as they do on regular referrals (15 percent of attorney’s fees collected on a case).
This is a win-win situation for clients and attorneys alike. The clients can obtain qualified legal assistance that they can afford, and the attorneys (especially newer attorneys starting out in family law) are able to help people they might not typically be able to reach.
Normal attorney’s fees, within the program guidelines, are between $40 and $125 per hour, depending on the income level in which the client may fall. Within these guidelines, the hourly fees are set as agreed upon between the attorney and client. Retainer fees of between $500 and $1,000 are also set up between attorney and client.
Limited Scope Program
Another service provided through the LRIS is the Limited Scope program. Unlike other referrals obtained via the LRIS, the half-hour consultation may be primarily reserved for an accurate description of limited representation services and additional screening of client eligibility by the attorney, rather than direct advice and assistance. Clients are able to obtain these services on a piece-by-piece basis, without paying a retainer fee.
Clients are not the only parties to benefit from this practice—most attorneys find it to be a reciprocal relationship. By expanding their practice to include limited representation, panel attorneys can market their services to a clientele who would not previously be expected to use or hire an attorney.
Panel attorneys charge prevailing hourly rates on a pay-as-you-go method of billing. It is truly a win-win opportunity. Many of these Limited Scope or “unbundled” referrals have turned into regular retainer paying clients as well.
Your LRIS also has a mediation program available to clients. Our Family Law Alternative Resolution (FLARe) program consists of either a 30-minute orientation appointment for $30 with one or both parties, or, if both parties are agreeable to mediation, we can provide them with a 90-minute actual mediation session with a qualified family law mediator for $150.
Once the mediation has been completed, the attorney notifies the LRIS and $120 of the fee collected is forwarded to the attorney. If the mediator is hired to prepare any documents or proceed any further with the attorney, the client is advised that the fees are set by the attorney themselves, after the first 90 minutes, usually at their regular rates. The LRIS does not discuss any fees with the client beyond their initial appointment.
The cost of participating in the LRIS is $100 annually (the fee is waived if you are only taking Moderate Means clients—another benefit for newer attorneys trying to establish a family law practice). It is a minimal cost, compared to the benefits of having qualified, prescreened clients referred to you for consultation. The cost of giving the client a free 30-minute consultation could be well worth your time, should the client hire you.
The benefits of helping clients who might otherwise not be able to obtain legal counsel, through the Moderate Means or Limited Scope programs, can be rewarding as well.
If you are interested in signing up for any of our panels on the LRIS, information can be found on our website at www.cccba.org/attorney/lawyer-referral-network or by calling our office at (925) 686-6900 Ext. 2.
Barbara Arsedo has been the Lawyer Referral & Information Services/Moderate Means Program Coordinator with the CCCBA for over seven years. Barbara also works closely with the California State Bar to assist other California bar associations in setting up and running these programs throughout the state.