January-Report - page 13

January 2013 CBA REPORT
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13
in the spotlight
The LRS meets all American Bar
Association standards and the rules set
forth by the Ohio Supreme Court. In
order to meet these standards, panelists
are required to maintain a certain level
of professional liability insurance. In
addition, they must qualify for each area
of law panel by meeting certain criteria
set forth by the Ohio Supreme Court and
the LRS board advisory committee. Our
promise to callers is that our panelists
are qualified in whatever legal need they
have.
We market to members of the public
through television and radio, but recently
have begun to target online consumers
through search engine optimization and
a blog on the new CBA website. We also
depend on community resources such as
Legal Aid, the Public Defender’s Office
and most importantly members of the
legal community for our referrals.
We are in the business of public
service. That said, it sometimes is more
appropriate to refer some callers to a lo-
cal community resource rather than an
attorney. We also offer other programs
and resources through the LRS including
two reduced fee programs available to
the public. The Attorneys for the Mar-
ginally Indigent (AMI) and the Modest
Means Program (MMP) and two public
service seminars;
Now You’re 18
and
You
and the Legal System
programs help serve
local individuals of all income levels.
The AMI program refers individu-
als who have been screened and found
ineligible by the Public Defender’s Office.
Usually the individuals are over their
income guidelines, but not able to afford
a full-fee attorney. A select panel of attor-
neys accepts referrals for this program.
The MMP referrals come mostly from
Legal Aid, who refers individuals with
lower income levels but not qualified for
that program. Modest Means panelists
represent clients for a reduced fee and
clients pay an up-front retainer for their
services. Most referrals in this program
are for divorce and bankruptcy.
The “Now You’re 18” program focuses
on the legal needs of high school seniors
as they encounter challenges. The speak-
ers address credit, domestic and legal
issues that young people face once they
are no longer minors.
“You and the Legal System” is a series
of informative sessions for the public
sponsored by the LRS and the Hamilton
County Law Library. The monthly one
hour sessions are held at the Hamilton
County Library and speakers share their
expertise on various topics of law. This
is a free program, open to anyone who
wishes to attend.
The LRS is currently staffed by three
full-time employees with more than 30
years of combined experience in making
qualified referrals. We’ve come a long
way in seventy years and look forward to
continue serving the public, our panelists
and members of the Cincinnati Bar As-
sociation. Seventy and still going strong!
Witker has been employed by the Lawyer Referral
Service for 13 years. She lives in Lebanon and has two
children and five grandchildren.
And Still
Going
Strong
S
By Eileen Witker
S
eventy years ago, there was a
need for attorneys qualified in
tax matters for service and civil-
ian personnel. In 1942 members of the
executive committee of the Cincinnati
Bar Association met to discuss this need,
a committee was formed to investigate
ways to help, and in January 1943 the
Lawyers’ Reference Service became a
reality. The original panel had a mem-
bership of five and dues to belong for a
year were $5. Members of the Legal Aid
Society oversaw the program.
As the LRS grew, so did its member-
ship. In 1950 the name was changed to
the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) and
moved into the offices of the Cincinnati
Bar Association. The LRS was staffed by
Chase College of Law until the mid-
1980s when its first full-time director was
hired.
Panelists began accepting referrals for
more than taxation issues and now are
referred for most areas of law. Domestic
law, criminal law, negligence and bank-
ruptcy are the most common referrals
today. Originally panelists were chosen
by an index card method. Now, thanks to
technology, the panelists are referred in
a rotating basis and panelists and clients
both receive email confirmations of their
referrals.
In the first quarter of 1943, panelists
reported serving 25 clients and receiving
fees of $300. Currently the LRS has 287
panelists and the staff makes more than
14,000 referrals per year. In recent years,
panelists have reported total fees of $1.5
to $2 million for those referrals.
Lawyer Referral Service
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