An attorney referral service is a service that offers members of the public referrals to attorneys who have the expertise a person needs to handle a legal problem for which they seek help. The service enlists qualified attorneys to participate according to the terms of the service. Usually, a person who needs an attorney contacts the service by phone or online through a referral request form.
The referral service then identifies an attorney qualified to handle the person’s issue. They provide the attorney’s contact information to the person who needs legal representation. The person can contact the attorney and arrange an initial consultation. A minimal fee, usually between about $35 and $50, is charged for the consultation.
It can be difficult to locate and hire an experienced attorney specializing in a particular law field for a specific issue. Therefore, many people in Ohio seek out attorney referral services as a starting point for the search for legal representation and assistance.
The purpose of attorney referral services is not to offer guidance and legal advice but rather to offer a connection to qualified attorneys who can provide guidance and advice to a person who requires legal services.
Non-profit organizations or advocacy groups offer some referral services, but state or county bar associations provide most services. It is important to know that bar association attorney referral services are provided as a public service at minimal cost to the members of the public. However, some for-profit corporations offer attorney referral services.
How Can I Use an Attorney Referral Service to Find an Attorney in Ohio?
As previously mentioned, a state bar association is generally a good place to start when seeking out a referral to an attorney. The Ohio State Bar Association has a website that offers information and links to four different resources that can help a person who needs an attorney. It offers information about how a person can connect with the appropriate lawyer for their problem.
Through Ohio Legal Help, a person can connect with an attorney or other legal aid provider who serves clients with a limited income. Through Ohio Legal Help, a person can also connect with LegalShield, a company that offers pre-paid legal service plans, something like legal insurance that works similarly to health insurance.
Through Ohio Legal Help, a person can connect with the Ohio county bar associations, which offer lawyer referral services to residents in their counties. Next, a person can click on any county’s bar association link, and in some cases, the person is brought to their county bar association’s website. A person will find directions to their attorney referral service through the county bar association’s website.
Lastly, one can connect to the Ohio State Bar Association’s “Attorney Directory.” A person can submit their name, location, and practice area. A practice area would be the area of law in which the attorney practices. This assumes that a person knows what kind of specialization their attorney needs. Of course, a person may not know, so they would need a referral service to help them identify the kind of attorney they need.
Some of the larger Ohio county bar associations offer online attorney referral services. These larger Ohio counties include Cuyahoga County. Cincinnati has a bar association that offers an attorney referral service. However, most Ohio county bar associations provide attorney referral services exclusively by phone.
What If I Cannot Afford an Attorney?
A person has a few options, even if they cannot afford an attorney. If a person needs a criminal defense attorney because they have been charged with a crime, the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees representation by an attorney under certain circumstances.
Specifically, a person has a right to an attorney if the criminal conviction could result in imprisonment for 6 months or more. If the person cannot afford to hire an attorney, the state must provide one at the state’s expense. This is true whether the person has been charged with a state or federal criminal offense.
If a person has been charged with a crime and knows they cannot afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, they should inform the judge at their arraignment that they wish to have an attorney but cannot afford one.
Unfortunately, in civil law cases, a person is not guaranteed representation by an attorney. However, some non-profit groups offer legal services at no cost or at a low cost to people who financially qualify because they have limited income.
In Ohio, one such group is the Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS. On their website, a person can find a phone number and address. SEOLS serves 30 counties in the southeastern part of Ohio. The organization has offices in six cities: Athens, Chillicothe, New Philadelphia, Newark, Portsmouth, and Steubenville.
Another group in Ohio that offers representation to people with low incomes and limited assets is the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC). This group serves low-income residents of central Ohio from offices in Columbus and Marion. Contact information is available on their website.
Can My Insurance Policies Help Me Find an Attorney?
A person’s homeowners and car insurance can be the source of legal representation. If someone is injured in a person’s home, the insurance company that issued their homeowners’ insurance policy is obligated to provide the person with an attorney to defend them.
If a person gets into a car accident, then the insurance company that issues a person’s car insurance should provide a lawyer to defend the person if they are sued in connection with the accident.
A person may have other insurance policies that could provide them with an attorney in the event they are sued. For example, professional malpractice insurance of all types and other business liability policies frequently include a provision that obligates the insurance company to provide a person with a legal defense if they are sued.
So, if a person is sued, they want to contact the insurance company that has issued the relevant policies; they may have to see if the company is obligated to defend them.
How Should I Prepare for My Consultation with a Lawyer?
The following are some simple steps that a person can take to prepare for a first meeting with an attorney and make it as productive as possible:
- A person should clarify what service they need;
- Prepare any questions you may have and take notes of what the attorney tells you;
- Prepare a brief and honest written statement outlining the legal issues; and
- Organize any related evidence or documentation that is relevant to the problem.
Remembering that a person does not have to hire an attorney to represent them after the first meeting is important. A person can do that if they and the attorney agree on it. But it is not required. A person can always interview other attorneys until they decide who is right for them and their issue.
How Can LegalMatch Help Me?
LegalMatch is another tool that can assist you in locating a well-qualified and knowledgeable Ohio attorney in your area who can help you with your particular legal needs.
LegalMatch maintains a vast network of experienced Ohio attorneys who specialize in various legal practice areas. Once again, you must connect with an experienced attorney to ensure that any legal issue you have is properly addressed.