The Almighty Referral – Referral Tips During Pro Bono Consults.

One of the following two aspects of your practice is certain to be high-volume: 1) either the number of cases that you have or 2) the number of elements contained in causes of action in the manageable number of cases under your watch.

You will be able to get up to speed concerning the volume of your work, but it is a push and pull and it takes time.  Here are a few tips about providing referrals, to other clinics, resources and attorneys, while doing effective work in the high-volume (either of clients, or your own bandwidth) environment that you may find yourself in.  Yes, you do a have high-volume of bandwidth.

Use the KCBA Neighborhood Legal Clinics’ pamphlet, make sure that there are extra copies of this pamphlet available to hand out at the location where you provide pro bono services.  While doing a full representation pro bono case, what do you do when there are side issues that are not within the scope of the representation that you have agreed to provide?  Become familiar with the structure of the County and WSBA/State-based legal aid organizations and the contact information for those Clinics; these include but are not limited to the Lawyer Referral Service, the Moderate Means Program, and Volunteer Legal Services.

One high-volume area in pro bono work is family law: I would say that about one third of the pro bono consultations that I provide have to do with this topic.  If is not your regular bread and butter, how much of it should you learn?  You may know something already, or be able to learn something on the fly and provide useful advice to your client, however, there are numerous pro bono clinics that provide focused family law legal services, refer your consult-clients to them.

Sometimes the client needs do-it-yourself encouragement – even though it is a rarity that they want do-it-yourself encouragement.  A pro bono client asked me the other day, “we’re at the courthouse right now, I need an emergency temporary restraining order.  Where do I go, what do I do?”  Be frank with the client.  I said, “if you can’t hire a lawyer but are certain that you want this happen today, then you are in a pickle.  But if this is your situation, do some research and obtain the forms from the Internet, from the State’s forms website as well as the King County Superior Court’s website.  What I would do is download the template for the motion for a TRO.  Fill it out, go back to the Clerk with it and get the case filed, also, apply for a fee waiver.  You’ll have to learn about the remainder of the procedure by way of reading the information on Court’s website.  As a first timer, the process will be complicated but you can make it happen,  be persistent both when learning about the Court system and when seeking help in doing so.”

Do the referrals and provide some coaching to the client to be politely consistent when seeking free assistance.  Also, during a consult, you may by all means refer to your colleagues or other attorneys whom you know to have the skills and resources to provide great assistance.

Written By: Ian Franzel

Ian Franzel has a solo practice in Real Estate, Probate, and Debtor/Creditor cases, and is also a volunteer attorney at Housing Justice Project, the KCBA Neighborhood Legal Clinics, and is an organizer/volunteer attorney at The Young Lawyers Division Public Library Walk-In Clinic.

Referral Resources:

Legal Resources & Assistance

Neighborhood Legal Clinics Brochure

Washington State Bar Association Moderate Means Program

KCBA Pro Bono Services

KCBA Lawyer Referral Service

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