Should I Call A Referral Service?

How Do ASK “GARY” And 411-PAIN Really Work?

Lawyer referral services such as 1-800-ASK “GARY” and 411-PAIN have their ads plastered all over TV and radio.  If you call them, they claim that they can connect you with a doctor and a lawyer if you’ve been in an accident.  Here is what you may not know about them.

Lawyers Pay A Fee To Get Clients From The Service

What many people don’t realize about these “services” is that they really aren’t services at all.  The lawyers who use them pay a lot of money in fees to be part of “their” referral network.  This is nothing more than repackaged advertising for a few law firms that use them that they use to try to eliminate competition from other law firms who do not buy in.

If you can see the writing on the wall, how can you trust what a “lawyer referral service” or a “lawyer and medical referral service” that is funded by the major players of the industry?  The answer is simply that you can’t.

How It All Got Started

The medical and legal referral service industry got started in the 1990’s by a chiropractor who decided to take advertising to a new level.  He realized that there was more money to be made by redirecting traffic to law firms than adjusting necks and backs.

This concept has been disruptive to the tried and true business models of personal injury law firms.  For the law firms who had bought into the referral service, they soon found out that the doctors provided by the network began to demand more and more out of settlements and that leaving the service would mean the end of referrals from the service.

The only choice at that point was whether the attorneys would reduce their fees or whether they would pass that cost on to their clients.  You can probably guess what happened.

Your Lawyer Is Supposed To Represent You

When you hire an attorney after an accident, your attorney is supposed to be representing your best interests.  This means that they should try to get as much money as possible for you while minimizing what you owe on medical expenses.

If your attorney belongs to one of these so-called legal and medical referral services and relies heavily on them to survive, then how can you trust that attorney to act in your best interests?  That attorney’s relationship with the legal and medical referral service is probably more important to that attorney’s business than your case is to that attorney.  If you think that attorney is helping you, then you should think again.

Your attorney should be representing you and not the doctor who referred your case.  Your attorney should be putting as much money in your pocket as is possible rather than favoring the flow of new clients.

Changes In The Law Require An Attorney To Associate With The Service

In recent years, the Florida Bar added a requirement that legal referral services have a licensed attorney associate with them to be responsible for and oversee their operations.  Requiring an attorney is supposed to ensure that the service operates ethically under Florida Bar ethics rules, but as you can imagine, compliance is only facial because the temptation of the money (or fear of losing that income) is the true controlling mechanism.  There is a difference between some who really tries and someone who just says that they did (and you can usually tell, too).  You should follow your nose on this.

No One Owns Your Case But You

Hiring an attorney with ties that are too close to a referral source is a problem.  When the ties are too close, the attorney’s judgment is impacted by the potential loss of business from a disgruntled referral source.  You should never forget that your case belongs to you.  You might hire an attorney to help you with it but it is still your case and your attorney works for you.

No one else owns your case and your case does not become theirs just because they referred you or they rang up a bill.  Your attorney’s job is to make sure that you don’t overpay for services that you received (in addition to make sure that you get fair value from the insurance company).

We Are Not Part Of The 1-800-ASK Or 411-PAIN Network And NEVER Will Be

At Russo Law, we do not participate in these legal and medical referral services because we do not believe that it is in the best interests of our clients to do so (ask yourself, is this really what you want for your case?).  Instead, we rely on the tried and true business model for personal injury and medical malpractice law firms. This means that we get our own clients and we represent their interests.

If someone refers you to us, it is because it is a real referral.  People send us work because we do our clients a good job and not because they stand to gain any sort of kickback.  You should always be wary of someone who stands to gain by a referral.

The Rules Are Changing

Following proposals from the Florida Bar, the Florida Supreme Court took up the issue of whether there should be rules mandating that the relationships between companies that provide legal referrals.  In 2018, the Florida Bar published its petition with those rules for non-lawyers making referrals to lawyers after much consideration.

The new rules require that:

  • attorneys may only work with qualifying providers that have agreed to follow Bar rules
  • qualifying providers must furnish the Bar with a list of participating attorneys;
  • qualifying providers must provide proof to participating attorneys that they are complying with Bar rule;
  • attorneys must report to the Bar within 15 days of agreeing to participate or end participation with a qualifying provider;
  • attorneys must cease working with a qualifying provider within 30 days after being notified by the Bar that the provider is not in compliance with Bar rules.

The new rules also disallow the following:

  • attorneys cannot work with a provider who requires them to reciprocate medical referrals (patients) back to them in exchange for the flow of legal referrals;
  • qualifying providers must be clear that they are not a law firm;
  • qualifying providers also are prohibited from saying they are approved by the Bar or that their advertising is approved by the Bar.

The Florida Supreme Court still needs to decide whether to adopt and implement these rules.  Regardless, we still think that the public has no problem finding attorneys on their own without the help of so-called legal referral services operated by unscrupulous doctors or patient brokers.

Call Us to Get It Straight

We invite you to call us to discuss your case for free.  Ask us the tough questions.  If we think you have a collectible case, we will tell you so.  If  you don’t collect anything, then you owe us nothing.  Call a Lakeland personal injury attorney today.

We serve clients with cases in Polk County including Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow, and Haines City, Florida.

December 25, 2016