The Legal Referral Service–New York’s Best Kept Secret


Often our clients ask us to help them on problems outside of our areas of expertise.  When we do not know of a fellow lawyer in a given speciality we send our clients to the Legal Referral Service (http://www.abcny.org/LRS).  It is one of New York’s best kept legal secrets.

The Legal Referral Service is a joint project of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (www.abcny.org) and the New York County Lawyers Association (www.nycla.org) which is pictured below.  It has a full-time staff and is located in the Association of the Bar’s building.

The Legal Referral Service provides a very valuable service to the community.  Many people never have hired an attorney, and they do not know where to turn when they have a legal problem.  Occasionally, a client has a very unusual legal problem which cannot be answered by their family attorney or the attorney who recently handled a will or home closing.  The Legal Referral Service finds attorneys for these clients.

Here is how it works.  A client calls the Service and discusses his problem with a paralegal.  The paralegal determines the nature of the problem.  For example, the caller might be complaining that her renter’s insurance company has refused to pay her claim on a lost engagement ring.  The caller does not know what to do.  The Legal Referral Service paralegal would provide the name of an attorney who handles insurance matters. 

The attorney is a member of the Panel in the area of insurance, and he has been screened and approved by the Legal Referral Service as to competency, reliability, and good standing in the legal community.  To join a panel the attorney must make a formal application, provide references, provide proof of malpractice insurance, and be interviewed by a screening committee of the Service.

Similarly, in another example, a caller makes a complaint about the adjoining property owner who has erected a fence on the caller’s land.  In this case the Legal Referral Service paralegal determines that this is a land dispute problem, and the paralegal takes a name from the Panel of land dispute attorneys.

The foregoing process occurs many times every day in almost every area of legal specialty.

Now here is one of the the Legal Referral Service’s greatest benefits to the public.  The client can meet with a specialist attorney for one half hour for the flat rate of $35.  Where else can you have a half hour consultation with a lawyer for $35?

This fee goes direct to the Service to help defray its costs.  Clients who have financial hardship do not have to pay the $35. 

At the end of this initial consultation the attorney can propose a regular fee to the client which the client might enter.  Or the attorney and client part ways.  The client can always go to another attorney or handle the matter himself, such as a small claims case.  Often, all the client needs is a clear and concise answer to his problem.  The half hour consultation provides this.

We are members of the Panels on Personal Injury, Property Damage, and Insurance.  We have been referred clients and cases in those areas.  Moreover, I have sent some of our clients to the Legal Referral Service on arcane legal issues, such as New York Civil Service pension rights.

When a client turns to the Legal Referral Service it is like going to a giant law firm with one hundred specialists.

The number of the Legal Referral Service is 212-626-7373.  It has a separate number for Spanish speaking callers at 212-626-7374.

Mark E. Seitelman, 7/15/08, www.seitelman.com

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