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Rules of the Lawyer Referral Service of the Palm Beach County Bar Association
OBJECTIVES The primary purpose of the Lawyer Referral Service of the Palm Beach County Bar Association is to provide a method whereby any person who can afford to pay a reasonable fee for legal advice or representation, and who does not have a lawyer, may be referred to a member of the Service who is available to give a brief consultation for a reasonable fee, and, where necessary, to furnish additional legal services on a reasonable fee basis. A further objective of the Service is to acquaint lawyers with the fact that the needs of some clients suggest the use of a deferred payment plan to fulfill their obligation.
Organization of the Service
1. All members in good standing of the Florida Bar for a minimum of one year and who are members of either the Palm Beach County Bar Association or the South Palm Beach County Bar Association, and who maintain a full-time physical business office (cannot be a home office) in Palm Beach County, are eligible for membership in the Service.
2. A lawyer may apply for membership by filing an application. Upon admission to membership, the member agrees:
(a) to pay an annual non-refundable registration fee as set by the Board of Directors.
(b) to pay an additional 10% of each fee over $100 received from matters referred by the Service. All fees will be used to defray the costs of operation of the Service.
(c) to personally grant an initial half-hour consultation in person or by telephone by the attorney assigned to a referred client for no charge, unless otherwise provided by law or the Rules of the Service.
(d) to charge for further services only as agreed upon with the client in keeping with the stated objectives of the Service and the client’s ability to pay.
(e) to report promptly to the Service on forms to be furnished by the Service the disposition or status of the referrals,
(f) to maintain, and continue to maintain, malpractice (E & O) insurance in the minimum amount of $100,000, to furnish a copy of the declaration page of the insurance policy or a certificate of the insurance to the Board and it designated representative and to hold harmless the Palm Beach County Bar Association, the Association’s officers, directors and employees, harmless from any and all claims and/or liability against it by a referred client for any reason including without limitation on account of the member’s alleged negligence or mistake or any act of a claim of failure to supervise the attorney by the Lawyer Referral Service.
(g) to accept referrals in at least one (1) but not more than five (5) of the areas of practice listed on the application.
Operation of the Service
1. The Service shall be staffed by one or more personnel who shall be employees of the Palm Beach County Bar Association and function under the supervision of the Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Bar Association. One employee shall be the Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Bar Association who will be the administrator of the LRS, whose responsibility will be to administer the Service.
2. The staff shall maintain a separate list of members for each area of practice specified in Article I, paragraph 2(f). Prospective clients shall be interviewed by telephone and if legal services are requested, the staff shall refer the client to a member on the appropriate list.
3. Assignment of referral clients shall be by rotation from the appropriate list unless the client shall decline to be referred to a particular member, in which case, the client shall be referred to the next member on such list. Any member passed over in this manner shall remain in the same position on such list.
4. If the referrer ascertains that a person being interviewed is presently represented by a lawyer in the same matter, the member to whom the referral is made shall be informed of the circumstances and shall be governed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.
5. The referrer shall give the client one name of an attorney to schedule an appointment with a member. As set by the Board of Directors from time to time the referral fee may be increased. (Effective 9-1-11) The Palm Beach County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service is now responsible for collecting the referral fee (presently $50 payable by credit card) for operating expenses. The member will be required to personally provide these clients with either an in-office/ or telephonic 30 minute consultation. The client is to have their consult with the selected attorney and not any other staff member. The attorney may be taken off rotation if the consultation is not given by the attorney. However, if by reason of the client’s failure to keep the appointment or otherwise consult the member, the member may so advise the referrer and the member shall be returned to his or her position on the list.
6. No referrals shall be made to a member who fails to comply with any of the provisions of Article III, Paragraph 2. The Lawyer Referral Service staff shall notify a member in writing of any non-compliance, specifically describing the nature of such member’s non-compliance and, upon compliance as determined by the Administrator or the Administrator’s delegate, such member shall again become entitled to receive referrals.
7. A member shall not refer an initial consultation referred by the Service to another lawyer who is not an LRS panel member. If for some reason, he or she is not able to assist that client, THE MEMBER WILL REFER THE CLIENT BACK TO LRS for another referral. However, a member may permit a law firm associate, partner or professional association member to conduct the necessary legal services under such member’s guidance, if the assisting lawyer is also a member of the Service and on the same area of practice list. If the LRS discovers that a member has referred a client to another attorney who is not part of the LRS, that LRS attorney remains contractually liable for any fees owed, and remains liable for collection and/or payment of any fees owed to the LRS. A member shall pay the LRS ten percent (10%) over the first $100 of the total legal fees and costs received by any/all attorney(s) involved. Costs and or fees may not be deducted from the attorney’s fees. Members are required to refer individuals back to the LRS when not accepting a referral as a client.
8. Any client who is referred to any attorney who is unable to represent that client because of a conflict of interest, or a referral in an area of law practice with which that attorney is not familiar, or other similar reason can be referred to a second attorney at no additional charge. Any client who receives an appointment with one attorney and requests a refund will be offered another appointment. If the client does no want another appointment, the client must address their complaint in writing to the LRS who will make a decision as to whether or not a refund will be granted.
9. If a Lawyer Referral Service member leaves a firm and leaves the Lawyer Referral cases with the firm after his/her departure, he/she will be responsible for ensuring that the status of all cases is reported to the Service and any fees due the Service are remitted in a timely manner. Former panel members will continue to receive the Outstanding Monthly Report and it will be their responsibility to contact their former firm and ask them to report the status of the cases to the Bar and send any fees due the Service.
Removal from the Service
1. No member of the Service shall be removed from membership in the Service without having been afforded notice and an opportunity to be heard by the Board and an opportunity to show cause why such a member should not be removed.
2. A majority of the Board may remove or suspend a member from the Service for cause upon the following grounds:
a. Failure to pay dues, remit the percentage fee referred to in Article I (2) (b), or remit the Referral Fee referred to in Article II (5).
b. Consistent unavailability for any reason.
c. Consistent refusal to make or keep appointments with referred clients.
d. Failure to comply with the Rules Of The Lawyer Service Of The Palm Beach County Bar Association.
e. Failure to meet the qualifications for membership in the Service.
f. Incompetence or malpractice.
g. Suspension or disbarment from The Florida Bar.
3. When probable cause has been found at a local grievance committee level against an LRS member, the Service shall be required by The Florida Bar to temporarily suspend that member from receiving referrals until such matter is resolved.
4. A member may at any time withdraw from membership upon written notice to the Committee, but a resigning member shall not be thereby relieved of obligation in connection with any referred matter. A resigning member shall not be entitled to a refund or any portion of the membership fee.
Acknowledgment and Report of Referrals
The panel member will complete and return the referral fee and referral report, forwarded by the Service, within two weeks after each referral. If the panel member fails to collect the referral fee from the client, that member is responsible for paying the referral fee to the Service.