Lawyer Referral

Jack L. Harris, Chair

The Virginia Lawyer Referral Service (VLRS), was established in 1977 by the Virginia State Bar (VSB) to enhance and support one of its core missions – “to advance the availability and quality of legal services provided to the people of Virginia”. 

In Fiscal Year 2019, the VLRS received and answered over 14,000 telephone calls, responded to 377 emails and provided 609 on-line request forms from those seeking its’ services. The VLRS assisted 4,042 of those consumers with prescreened and prepaid referrals to its active lawyer panel members; resulting in $170,310.00 of revenue for the Bar.   

The VSB Special Committee on Lawyer Referral would like to thank the 300+ VLRS lawyer panel members for their (past and present) service to the bar and their communities. The VLRS was also pleased to welcome 44 first-time lawyer panel members this past year. 

In addition to its special focus on significant revision of the VLRS Rules and improving awareness of VLRS services to the public and the Bar, the Committee’s FY 2019 goals also included emphasizing the unique protections provided to consumers when they receive referrals to VLRS lawyer panel members, each of whom are VSB members in-good standing (private lawyers) and who carry legal malpractice insurance. 

Those goals were met by: 

1. Proposal and Adoption of Rule revisions for the VLRS. The rules adopted by the Special Committee on Lawyer Referral were approved by the VSB Executive Committee and Bar Council in Fall, 2018, and subsequently by the Supreme Court of Virginia on April 10, 2019 to become effective on July 1, 2020.  The primary purpose of the Rules changes was to adopt a percentage fee funding model for the VLRS, a model which places VLRS in the mainstream of statewide lawyer referral services across the country and which should assure the VLRS of sufficient funding to properly market the service to the public, to meet the public’s access needs, and to bring the service to funding self-sufficiency after many years of VSB subsidization.  

2. Enhanced Marketing Campaigns for VLRS. The Committee members and VLRS  staff have conducted onsite lawyer panel membership promotion in coordination with the VSB Access to Legal Services Director at the following: 49thAnnual VSB Criminal Law Seminar in Charlottesville & Williamsburg (February 2019); Conferences of Local and Specialty Bar Association (CLSBA) & the Solo and Small-Firm Forum in Wytheville (October 2018), in Suffolk (March 2019) & in Fredericksburg (May 2019); VSB Techshow in Richmond (April 2019); Bar Leaders Institute in Richmond (April 2019);  VSB 81stAnnual Meeting in Virginia Beach (June 2019); and the VSB YLC Admission & Orientation Ceremony in Richmond (June 2019).  At the onsite promotions, VSB members with 5 or less years of VSB membership were offered a 1-year free VLRS panel membership with paid consumer referrals.  The VLRS was also excited to display our new VLRS promotional floor and table banner signages.

With the assistance of the VSB Communication Department the VLRS has run semi-monthly VSBVirginia Lawyer magazine ads - “Virginia Lawyers: Do You Have More Business Than You Can Handle?”(August & October 2018); “Potential Clients are Looking for Virginia Lawyers” (December 2018 & February 2019); “Thank You” list of all VLRS current lawyer panel members (April 2019); “We take the calls, you get the clients” (June 2019) 

To enhance awareness of the consumer services provided by VLRS to more consumers, we have highlighted differing law topics through the use of social media advertising, including Bankruptcy (March 2019), Family Law-Divorce & Custody (March 2019), Estate Planning (April 2019), Criminal Law-Traffic Defense (May 2019); Civil Disputes (May 2019); and Juvenile Law (June 2019) - reaching over 62,000 consumers and  receiving over 6000 “Likes”.  

3. Partnerships.  The VLRS assisted the VSB Young Lawyers Conference (YLC) Emergency Legal Service (ELS) in response to Hurricane Florence in August 2018; and the Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia (CCEVA) by providing free lawyer referrals to persons affected by the hurricane and to those victims’ families and survivors of the Virginia Beach shooting in June 2019.  The VLRS Staff also had an informational and strategic meeting with the Virginia Bar Association (VBA) on February 12, 2019 to discuss how to best assist callers that reach out to both agencies seeking legal assistance. 

The Special Committee on Lawyer Referral met on Thursday, August 9, 2018 and Monday, March 4, 2019. 

Committee Members

Eugene M. Elliott, vice-chair; Joseph M. Bowen, Angela T. Isabell, John A. Kassabian, Neil S. Lowenstein, D. Adam McKelvey, Sarah M. Morton, D. David Parr, Jr., Todd A. Pilot, Jeanette D. Rogers, and Christopher L. Spinelli. 

 

 

 

                                                                                     Updated: Aug 09, 2019