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Hebenstreit: Too Many Clients?

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IBA-hebenstreitDo you have too many clients? If so, you can probably skip this article; but, if not please read on.

For many years, the IndyBar has been in the lawyer referral business. Each year, the staff fields more than 40,000 calls from the general public and those calls result in new business for the members who take advantage of the Lawyer Referral Service. For the nominal fee of $250 per year, any member can participate. Our members can also determine if they want to participate in the Modest Means service and/or the Legal Advice Hotline at no additional expense.

Attorneys designate what practice areas in which they are interested in receiving calls. There is no limit of practice areas, but most participants try to only accept calls in the areas in which they feel comfortable. The Modest Means panel is designed to assist lower income clients engage an attorney for a reduced fee. Finally the Legal Advice Hotline is a product that allows a client to speak with an attorney over the telephone. The call is limited to 20 minutes. It is popular because it allows a prospective client to determine if they even have a legal problem or one that can be resolved quickly. Both the Modest Means and Legal Advice Hotline are great additional options for newer lawyers trying to build a basic practice.

All calls are routed through the IndyBar staff who are trained to pre screen the calls to determine if they have merit and what areas of the law are involved. Approximately 16,000 referrals are made each year. Calls are forwarded on a rotating basis to the LRS participants who are interested in cases in the area of interest to the caller. The callers are also able to request referrals to an attorney in a given geographical area if they choose to do so. In addition to the annual fee, the participating lawyers self report fees they earn on LRS cases and pay a modest percentage of those fees back to the IndyBar. More than $2.37 million was earned by the panelists between January 2010 and August 2011. That is an average return of over $2700 per case which is more that a 10% return on the investment of the annual fee.In case there is any question whether or not the expense if worthwhile, the average panelist earned over $11,500 in 2010 with 2 panelists earning over $120,000 and one attorney who earned $300,000 on a referred case. The success of the program is attributed to a number of factors, but generally, who should the public better rely on in seeking a legal referral than the IndyBar.

For over a year, the Legal Services Advisory Committee under the leadership of Jeff Meunier has been fine-tuning a new and additional referral service. Although many clients prefer to call for a referral, many are now using the Internet to search for legal referrals. The Indy LawyerFinder is the answer. This web based product will feature IndyBar lawyers who are interested in showcasing their areas of practice. We have engaged a web developer to create the platform. Although there will be a general template of information each participating attorney will feature, the program will allow creativity for the attorneys. In addition to allowing the attorney to promote their individual expertise, a good deal of time and money is being invested in order to achieve search engine optimization so our site will attract a large number of hits. We want the clients to find our product before looking for others. The Lawyer Referral Service will continue to work exactly the way it has in the past, but the Indy LawyerFinder will be yet another service for our members.

We are hopeful that the Indy Lawyer Finder will be launched and fully operational before the end of the year. Its success will depend on the number of qualified attorneys who participate. Chris Hickey is leading the team soliciting our members to participate. If she calls you, please take the time to listen—unless you have more clients than you want.

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