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Front Page - Friday, February 16, 2018

Referral platform benefits attorneys, clients

New technologies are transforming the way people search for the legal services they need. From scheduling an appointment with a doctor to requesting a consultation with a lawyer, many members of the public now prefer the ease-of-use of a laptop or mobile browser over calling a phone number.

To respond to this fast-changing digital landscape, the Chattanooga Bar Association is launching a new Lawyer Referral Service to better serve clients. This cutting-edge platform will ensure that our LRS offers the latest in legal marketplace technology – and evolves to meet the needs of our members.

With this new platform, the bar’s LRS will be able to reach a wider client base than before – from people who need the personal touch of an intake staff expert to those who prefer an online experience. The platform will also make it easier for panelists to receive new referrals and update their profile and list of legal services.

Lawyer referral services have been around for more than 50 years and were created to help middle income persons find appropriate legal counsel. Our LRS was initially created in the 1980s to provide consumers with guidance on selecting and hiring a qualified lawyer who was conveniently located and handled the consumer’s legal issue.

Today, our LRS is a public service dedicated to helping those who can pay the attorney fee but have become frustrated with their inability to find representation due to their lack of experience with the legal system.

Many Americans don’t employ attorneys because of the perceived cost of legal representation. But studies show that many are unaware that their situations are legal problems and that a lawyer should be hired to resolve them.

The American Bar Association’s Survey of Legal Needs shows that 85 percent of those surveyed felt that people do not hire lawyers because they have no way of knowing which lawyer is competent to handle their problem.

This is where the CBA comes in. Our primary purpose is to work for the betterment of the legal profession and the administration of justice through our programs and services. As part of our service to the community, our LRS is designed to assist the client in determining if the issue they have is of a legal nature or if it needs to be referred to a local service agency.

The most important function of a lawyer referral service is to provide the caller, or client, with a referral to a lawyer who has experience in the area of the law the client needs. Our LRS is different from the other services in that we don’t charge the client a fee to use the service, nor does the attorney provide a percentage of the fees collected from the referred client back to the CBA.

Our service is free for clients, and the participating lawyers provide one 30-minute consultation per referral.

Why you should participate

Participating in our LRS will allow you to build your practice with potential new clients who have legal problems in the areas in which you practice.

The service will link clients directly to you. You’ll have your own page in the area(s) of law for which your sign up, and this page will contain the information you provide: education, types of cases, qualifications, professional memberships, accomplishments, practice or firm summary, fee structure and a “get to know me” section.

In turn, you’ll be helping the community understand why it’s important to use a lawyer to solve legal issues and helping the public develop a better understanding of the law and legal profession.

Benefits to the public

Our LRS Service provides numerous benefits to the public:

-- Easily access via www.chattanoogabar.org

-- Free referrals

-- Around-the-clock access

-- Ability to research lawyers before contacting them

-- A guaranteed returned call

Your local bar association is usually the first place people turn to when looking for an attorney. And it’s a good public image tool that’s working for the betterment of the legal profession.

Joining our LRS as a panel attorney will give you a steady flow of clients seeking legal assistance. If you’re interested, call the CBA office at 423 602-9430 or email me at LHood@chattanoogabar.org.

For all current LRS panel members and anyone interested in this new platform, a video conference training session will be held Wednesday, Feb. 28 at the Elliott Davis Training Room on Market Street at 11 a.m.