There are three main types of attorney referral service:
The first is a non-profit referral service, typically run by a bar association. Attorneys are often required to carry a minimum amount of malpractice insurance to be listed, and to pay a small listing fee that covers the cost of maintaining the service. Attorneys are usually asked to describe their legal specialties. People who call the service are referred to attorneys in their area.
The second type of referral service involves an attorney, or a group of attorneys, who advertise for cases, which are referred either within the group or to other law firms. If the service advertises on television, the cost to an attorney for joining such a group can be quite substantial. Typically, an attorney receiving a case from this type of referral service will pay a "referral fee" to the service -- often as much as one third of the total fee charged to the client (or received through a personal injury settlement or verdict). Sometimes, ads for these services will make it appear that you will be hiring a specific attorney or law firm -- but the case will be referred to a different attorney when you call (or after your first consultation).
The third type of referral service is a strictly commercial venture, involving shared advertising. Attorneys pay a substantial fee to join the service, which advertises itself as a source for legal help. The only criterion for acceptance into such a service is, will you pay the fee. Fees can be as high as $8,000 or more per month, depending on the service and the attorney's location.
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