Lawyer Referral Services in Florida
The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service covers 47 counties in Florida. The remaining 20 counties are served by lawyer referral services managed by local bar associations. The local bar associations that maintain their own lawyer referral services are organized on a city, county or regional basis.
The Florida Bar sponsors a Lawyer Referral Service and referral hotline. The hotline is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The service can help you find a qualified attorney for a particular practice area of the law and a specific location. The service has rules for attorneys concerning their participation in the service.
The Florida Bar also supervises city and county level bar associations that operate lawyer referral services. These services must be approved under standards and guidelines established to assist The Florida Bar in supervising the operation and conduct of the service. Under
Under Rule 8-2.2, in order for a local bar association to manage a lawyer referral service in the State of Florida, the association must apply in writing to the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar for such authority.
Lawyer Referral Services in Florida help individuals and businesses find a local attorney experienced in the needed practice area of the law. Visit the links below to find out more about each service.
On March 8, 2018, the Supreme Court of Florida approved amendments to rules regulating lawyer referral services. Effective April 30, 2018, the amendments change the terminology from a “lawyer referral service” to a broader regulatory scheme for all “qualifying providers.”
List of Non-Profit Lawyer Referral Services in Florida
Broward County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Phone: 954-764-8040 x 1 or 954-764-8310
Serving all of Broward County.
Clearwater Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Serving all of Clearwater and Pinellas County, FL.
Collier County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
3315 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 505
Naples, FL 34112
Office Hours: Monday - Thursday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Friday - 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Serving all of Collier County.
Dade County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Serving all of Miami-Dade County.
Escambia - Santa Rosa Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Serving all of Escambia County and Santa Rosa County.
Hillsborough County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Serving all of Hillsborough County.
Jacksonville Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Meets ABA Standards for Lawyer Referral
Serving the North East portions of Florida including Duval County, Clay County, St. Johns County, Nassau County, and Baker County.
Lee County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Fort Myers, FL
Serving Lee County, Charlotte County, Collier County, Glades County, Hendry County.
Orange County Bar Association Lawyer Referral & Information Service
Serving Orange County, Oscelola County, and Seminole County.
Palm Beach County Bar Association LRIS
West Palm Beach, FL
Phone: 561-687-3266 or 561-451-3256
Serving West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County.
Tallahassee Bar Association LRS
Serving Tallahassee in Leon County, and the surrounding areas throughout Jefferson County, Wakulla County, Gadsden County, Liberty County, and Franklin County.
The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service
Toll free: 800-342-8011 (Statewide & Nationwide)
Serving all counties throughout the State of Florida.
West Pasco Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service
P.O. Box 1955
New Port Richey, FL 34656
Rules in Florida for Lawyer Referral Services in Florida
"Specific requirements which are binding upon all bar-sponsored lawyer referral services are contained in Rule 4-7.8 (Lawyer Referral Services) and Chapter 8 (Lawyer Referral Rule) of Rules Regulating The Florida Bar." FL ST LWYR REFERRAL STDS AND GDS Standard I.
The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, Rule 8.1.1 sets out a statement of policy and purposes for Lawyer Referral Services in Florida:
Every citizen of the state should have access to the legal system. A person's access to the legal system is enhanced by the assistance of a qualified lawyer. Citizens often encounter difficulty in identifying and locating lawyers who are willing and qualified to consult with them about their legal needs.
To this end bona fide not-for-profit state and local bar associations are uniquely qualified to provide lawyer referral services under supervision by The Florida Bar for the benefit of the public. It is the policy of The Florida Bar to support the establishment of local lawyer referral services and to encourage those services to:
(a) make legal services readily available to the general public through a referral method that considers the client's financial circumstances, spoken language, geographical convenience, and the type and complexity of the client's legal problem;
(b) provide information about lawyers and the availability of legal services that will aid in the selection of a lawyer;
(c) inform the public when and where to seek legal services and provide an initial determination of whether those services are necessary or advisable; and
(d) provide referral to consumer, government, and other agencies when the individual's best interests so dictate.
Standards for Lawyer Referral Services in Florida
Lawyer Referral Service ("LRS") must meet the following obligations:
Attorneys participating in the lawyer referral service must provide proof of professional liability insurance in the minimum amount of $100,000 (unless the proposed lawyer referral service itself carries professional liability insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 per claim or occurrence).
The LRS is only permitted to accept membership applications from attorneys who maintain an office in the geographic area served by the proposed lawyer referral service.
The LRS must maintain an alphabetical member list, updated quarterly, with The Florida Bar.
Under Rule 8-4.1, upon good cause shown, the board of governors may revoke the authority of any bar association to operate a lawyer referral service. These Lawyer Referral Services (as well as their directories, committee members, and staff) shall have "absolute immunity from civil liability for all acts in the course of their official duties…"
To specifically abide by The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar Rule 8-2.2 (3), “The Attorney Referral Service shall agree to maintain an alphabetical member list, updated quarterly, with The Florida Bar. In turn, The Florida Bar shall notify the Service of any unresolved finding of probable cause against a member. When
When probable cause has been found at the local Grievance Committee level, and the lawyer referral service has been notified, such service shall be required to hold referral to the member in question until the matter is resolved. If the member is in good standing with The Florida Bar after the resolution of the matter, then the member may return to the service.”
Why a Qualified Attorney Should Join a Lawyer Referral Service in Florida
Thousands of Floridians of moderate means underutilize attorneys. One reason for this problem is the perceived costs of legal services. Another reason is that Floridians are often unaware that their problems are legal problems and that lawyers should be employed to resolve them.
A Lawyer Referral Service in Florida is an ideal way to introduce clients to lawyers who can provide the legal services they need. An attorney should consider participating in the lawyer referral service for the following reasons:
- The lawyer has a professional responsibility to make legal services available to all persons.
- It helps the public recognize legal problems and the necessity for using a lawyer to solve legal problems;
- It encourages the practice of “preventive law’’ in solving many potential problems before they become more serious; and
- It provides an opportunity to show the public that lawyers are willing to help them and that they need not be apprehensive about consulting a lawyer.
Two Types of Lawyer Referral Services in Florida - Non-Profit and For-Profit
Two types of lawyer referral services exist in Florida - non-profit lawyer referral services and for-profit lawyer referral services. Non-profit lawyer referral services are often managed by local bar associations.
The non-profit version of these services provide referrals to lawyers with appropriate experience in the subject matter of the representation while providing other client protections, such as complaint procedures or malpractice insurance requirements. Many of these non-profit services are approved by an appropriate regulatory authority as affording adequate protections for the public and prospective clients.
For example, the American Bar Association's Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral Services and Model Lawyer Referral and Information Service Quality Assurance Act (requiring that organizations that are identified as lawyer referral services:
- permit the participation of all lawyers who are licensed and eligible to practice in the jurisdiction and who meet reasonable objective eligibility requirements as may be established by the referral service for the protection of the public prospective clients;
- require each participating lawyer to carry adequate malpractice insurance;
- act reasonably to assess client satisfaction and address client complaints; and
- do not make referrals prospective clients to lawyers who own, operate or are employed by the referral service.
In recent years, Florida has seen a dramatic growth in the for-profit lawyer referral services. The for-profit lawyer referral service brought an increase in public concern as to both the misleading nature of the activities of these services and the potential harm they may cause to people who need a qualified attorney to handle their legal matter.
For-profit lawyer referral services in Florida have been considered questionable because they generate money for the owner of the service through referrals of clients to attorneys.
In re AMENDMENTS TO RULE REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR 4–7.22—LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICES, 175 So.3d 779 2015), the Florida Supreme Court considered a petition from the Florida Bar to amend the Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4–7.22 (Lawyer Referral Services).
History of Lawyer Referral Services in Florida
Over the years, for-profit lawyer referral services in Florida have been considered questionable because they generate money for the owner of the service through referrals of clients to attorneys.
Since the adoption of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, the Florida Supreme Court has continued to restrict the circumstances under which Florida attorneys may accept referrals from for-profit lawyer referral services. See Fla. Bar re Rules Reg. the Fla. Bar, 494 So.2d 977, 1075–77 (Fla.1986) (adopting rule 4–7.6 (Lawyer referral services)).
The Florida Bar's Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services (Special Committee) was created in 2011 after the Florida Bar received numerous complaints with regard to advertising by lawyer referral services in Florida in recent years.
The Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services was given the task of reviewing:
- current practices of lawyer referral services;
- rules applicable to lawyer referral services;
- regulations that may be applicable to lawyer referral services; and
- the issue of whether and to what extent The Florida Bar can directly regulate lawyer referral services.
The committee makes recommendations to The Florida Bar Board of Governors regarding any changes to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar and any other action deemed necessary to protect the public and ensure compliance with the lawyer advertising rules.
Report of the Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services
In July of 2012, the committee conducted a comprehensive investigation and issued a final report known as the July 2012 Report of the Special Committee on Lawyer Referral Services.
After finding that most for-profit referral services are owned by people or entities other than lawyers, the final report raised numerous concerns. First, the report found a big increase in lawyer referral services that are owned by individuals or entities that specialize in the personal injury sector.
These for-profit lawyer referral services often target Hispanic and African American consumers through radio stations, spokespersons, and jingles.
These services often ask patients to fill out purported medical care paperwork, that acts as a law firm retainer. Other problems result because of the lawyer's conflict of interest cases by the relationship with the medical clinic that made the referral.
The committee concluded that: “for-profit lawyer referral services, working in conjunction with other professional or occupational disciplines, have a great propensity to run afoul of the Florida Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct that govern Florida Bar members and engage in activities that do not effectively or appropriately serve the interests of the public.”
The Special Committee issued a recommendation proposing a rule that provides:
1. A lawyer shall not accept client referrals from any person, entity or service that also refers or attempts to refer clients to any other type of professional service for the same incident, transaction or circumstance, and shall furthermore be prohibited from referring a client to any other professional service in consideration of the lawyer's receipt of referrals from any lawyer referral service.
The Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics of the Board of Governors instead proposed amendments to rule 4–7.22 that continue to allow lawyers to accept referrals from for-profit referral services that also refer clients to other businesses for services arising out of the same incident.
Florida's Proposed Amendments under Rule Reg. Fla. Bar 4-7.22
The Florida Supreme Court, in In re Amend. to Rule Reg. The Fla. Bar 4–7.22—Lawyer Referral Services, 175 So. 3d 779, 781 (Fla. 2015), rejected amendments to Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 4–7.22 proposed by The Florida Bar and directed the Bar to propose amendments that “preclude Florida lawyers from accepting referrals from any lawyer referral service that is not owned or operated by a member of the Bar.”
The Florida Bar then proposed amendments to rule 4–7.22 that did not comply with the Supreme Court's direction concerning lawyer referral services that are not owned or operated by a member of the Bar and that seek to expand the scope of the rule to include “matching services” and other similar services not currently regulated by the Bar.
For instance, the proposed amendments to Rule 4-7.22 abandon the term "lawyer referral service" for a more broadly defined term "qualifying provider” which includes:
- Lawyers Directories;
- On-line matching services;
- Group or pooled advertising programs; and
- Tips or leads programs.
The Florida Supreme Court originally declined to take any action the proposed amendments to the rules regarding lawyer referral services and other types of qualifying providers.
The New Rules for "Qualifying Provider"
On March 8, 2018, the Supreme Court of Florida approved amendments to rules regulating lawyer referral services. The amendments, effective April 30, 2018, change terminology from “lawyer referral service” to “qualifying provider” throughout.
The definition is of a qualifying provider is broader than the definition for a lawyer referral service. The definition appears to apply to many referral or matching service as well as any group or pooled advertising program is subject to the rules.
Under the new rule, participating lawyers will no longer be required to carry malpractice insurance. New requirements include a specific prohibition against requiring or pressuring participating lawyers to make cross referrals, providing participating lawyers with documentation of compliance with Florida Bar rules, and an express prohibition against stating or implying that the provider is a law firm, can practice law or can directly provide legal services.
Providers must continue to comply with lawyer advertising rules, continue to be subject to a prohibition against fee-sharing, continue to be required to refer or match consumers only to those authorized to provide services, continue to be required to respond to official Bar inquiries within 15 days, and continue to be subject to a prohibition against stating or implying Florida Bar endorsement.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 29, 2017.