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44th Street Notes

Time Out for a Commercial: Relief is a Phone Call Away!

Apr 2003

Whether you find yourself in a large, small or solo law practice, how often are you called upon by clients and friends for legal services which are not in your professional comfort zone or that of your partners or associates? How often do you receive a call or read an email seeking help in finding an attorney? In scanning my emails I constantly see requests for referrals for someone to handle a house closing, a domestic dispute, an immigration matter, a small estate or collection, a personal injury claim, etc.

Fortunately, these requests can be comfortably answered, and indeed over 400 a day are answered, by the Association’s Legal Referral Service. As a service to the profession and the public, the Service provides skilled, carefully screened attorneys who handle a broad range of legal services which are provided for reasonable and, where appropriate, contingent fees. The Service, a joint project of this Association and the New York County Lawyers’ Association, provides highly qualified lawyers in nearly every area of practice. It can be reached at 212-626-7373 (Spanish: 212-626-7374), or through either the Association’s website,, or Rest assured that those you refer to the Service will receive high quality representation, and unmatched consumer protection. First, lawyers seeking to serve on a referral panel are carefully screened. Applicants must submit a written application that includes information on at least three separate matters in each area of law for which they are applying, accompanied by a resume and writing samples. They must also demonstrate their abilities in an interview conducted by the Service’s staff, by attorneys who are on the panel and by an attorney on the Committee on the Legal Referral Service, which oversees the LRS operation. In addition, every panel member must submit a renewal application each year.

Second, clients who receive referrals through LRS have an extra measure of security:

• All panel members must carry professional liability insurance;

• All panel members must agree to arbitrate fee disputes with the client. While the New York State Office of Court Administration recently adopted a fee arbitration rule, it does not apply to all matters. However, the LRS requirement has no exceptions;

• Any client having a problem with a lawyer referred through LRS can complain to the Service. The LRS staff and, if necessary, the LRS Committee will review the complaint and address the problem.

Follow-up forms are regularly sent to clients, to obtain their view as to how their case was handled. Client comments, both positive and negative, are placed in the panel member’s file.

We ask a lot of the LRS panel lawyers, but they receive a lot as well. LRS takes over 110,000 calls each year. A professional, multi-lingual staff screens the calls. Most callers either do not need or cannot be most effectively helped by a lawyer, and those are given the appropriate information or referral to government agencies and other organizations. After screening out cases not appropriate for referral, over 37,000 matters were referred to lawyers last year.

LRS has become a national model for referral services. It is the only referral service in the New York City area approved by the American Bar Association. In addition to its referral activities, the Service runs an award-winning Law Day program. Panelists volunteer to staff tables in public plazas in several of the City’s boroughs, and dispense free legal information on a walk-up basis for a day. Last year, LRS received an award from the American Bar Association for its enormous efforts to help the victims of the September 11th attack.

The Service would be pleased to make a presentation to the staff of your office. The presentation would consist of some basic legal information about a subject of general concern, and information on how to utilize LRS. If you would like to arrange such a program, contact Paul Koelle, at 212-382-4716 (or

Lawyers interested in applying for one or more of the LRS panels can contact the Director of the Service, Allen Charne, at 212-382-6775 (or The Service particularly welcomes lawyers who practice in underserved communities or in the outer boroughs.

LRS provides an essential service to both the public and the profession. Please spread the word.

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