PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING SPONSORSHIP OF RESOLUTION TO THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION HOUSE OF DELEGATES SUPPORTING LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICES
WHEREAS, since 1948, the Philadelphia Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service has been a valued public service, providing individuals and businesses with access to justice through referrals to attorneys who are qualified to assist them with their specific legal needs; and
WHEREAS, the Lawyer Referral and Information Service is also a service to attorney members of the Philadelphia Bar Association, providing them with opportunities to grow their practices; and
WHEREAS, more than 200 state and local bar associations across the country have similar lawyer referral services, improving access to justice in their communities and providing business opportunities for their lawyer members; and
WHEREAS, bar association oversight of lawyer referral services at the state and local level ensures that issues particular to a jurisdiction are recognized, allows for appropriate monitoring of the qualifications of attorney participants and facilitates the effective handling of matters involving customer satisfaction; and
WHEREAS, for more than sixty years, the American Bar Association has supported state and local bar association lawyer referral services, creating a Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Services, promulgating the ABA Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral and Information Services, providing a Program of Assistance and Review to render advice to struggling lawyer referral services, conducting an annual National Workshop for lawyer referral service directors, as well as maintaining a list serve and information clearinghouse to encourage best practices; and
WHEREAS, the American Bar Association recently entered into a joint venture with Rocket Lawyer, creating a service marketed as ABA Law Connect; and
WHEREAS, ABA Law Connect was introduced as a pilot program in Pennsylvania, California and Illinois and promised that an "ABA lawyer" would provide the owner of a small business with answers to legal questions for $4.95, with the further promise that the small business owner could then hire the "ABA lawyer" for further services; and
WHEREAS, ABA Law Connect was effectively a lawyer referral service not in compliance with the ABA Model Supreme Court Rules Governing Lawyer Referral and Information Services; and
WHEREAS, the American Bar Association entered into this joint venture with Rocket Lawyer without obtaining input from state and local bar associations; and
WHEREAS, the American Bar Association entered into this joint venture with Rocket Lawyer without obtaining the permission of the American Bar Association House of Delegates; and
WHEREAS, after considerable protest from state and local bar leaders, the American Bar Association ended the ABA Law Connect pilot program in February, 2016; and
WHEREAS, American Bar Association leadership has expressed that programs similar to ABA Law Connect may be considered in the future.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors hereby authorizes the Philadelphia Bar Association to sponsor a resolution to the American Bar Association House of Delegates in the form attached hereto, or any similar language calling on the American Bar Association to reaffirm its support of state and local bar association lawyer referral services and requiring that any program proposed that may result in the hiring of an attorney for a fee must first be fully vetted and approved by the American Bar Association House of Delegates.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that said resolution shall not restrict the ability of the American Bar Association to initiate pro bono programs for the benefit of indigent persons.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association shall seek co-sponsorship from other state and local bar associations for said resolution.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: March 31, 2016