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Why Do People Use Bar Association For Referrals?

The Northern Kentucky Bar Association, NKBA, and numerous other associations provide referral sources for potential clients to find an attorney.  The Lawyer Referral Service has been provided for years, despite varying ethics position regarding paying for referrals.  People want to trust that the local Bar Association is unbiased and do not know where else to trust.  That said, the attorneys accepting referrals pay a separate fee in order to be included in that list. Under Kentucky rules of ethics, the division of fees between lawyers of different firms is prohibited if one party is strictly making a referral and undertakes no obligation to the case and handles no matters in the case.  Further, it is strictly prohibited to share fees between a lawyer and non-lawyer.  Nevertheless, the NKBA receives a portion of the fee due to the lawyer in the lawyer referral service.

Following is KBA Ethic Opinion: May an attorney divide legal fees with a referring attorney where the latter performs no legal service and assumes no responsibility?  Answer: No.   References: Code DR 2-107
OPINION Over the years customs and practices have developed which are constantly changing and being shaped by the demands of our progressively ever-changing society. One of these customs and practices concerns the division of fees among attorneys. Such customs and practices vary from area to area, state to state and in the Nation as a whole.   Because of this variance and because of the responsibility of the attorney to his client this article is being written and published by direction of the Board of Governors of your Bar Association.

We are dealing here only with the division of fees among attorneys. Without dispute or argument the division of legal fees with a non-attorney is absolutely prohibited. To be fair, the NKBA did receive an ethics ruling prior to implementing the current referral services.  This ethics ruling does allow for referral and fees associated therewith.  This ruling is based on the "non-profit" status of the bar association.  In my opinion (which is somewhat irrelevant), it is a distinction without a difference.  If legalmatch.com is a for-profit business, it is unethical to pay them a percentage for referral.  However, if legalmatch.com would be a non-profit business, it is entirely ethical to pay a referral fee.  Why?  The answer is because the bar association needs money and gets significant amounts of that money from the referrals. Should it not matter more how much money is spent on advertising?  Why should the bar association be competing with its own members to gain clientele?  The bar association does not provide legal services, therefore there should be no reason to advertise.  Similarly, it should be just as illegal for legalmatch.com, avvo.com, totalattorneys.com, attorneyreferral.com, lawyerreferral.com, and martindale.com to advertise, solely for the purpose of referring clients.  The real shame is that they have created a virtual yellow pages that markets to those individuals in need of an attorney. The attorneys msut pay either a flat fee, pay-per-lead fee or contingency fee in order to be a preferred attorney on these websites.   If you have legal needs in Boone, Campbell, Kenton or Hamilton County, contact my office for a consultation.  Email Mike@bouldinlawfirm.com or call 581-MIKE for a consultation, 859-581-6453 .

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