The Delaware State Bar Association recognizes that there exists a large group of persons who believe that legal services are not readily available. In order to respond to the needs of those persons it has been and is the position of the Delaware State Bar Association that a Lawyer Referral Service (hereinafter the “Service”) be established. These Lawyer Referral Service Rules are promulgated as the policy of the Lawyer Referral Service of the Delaware State Bar Association to cover the operations of the Service and shall remain in effect until modified or altered by the service.
The primary objective of the Delaware State Bar Association in the establishment of the Lawyer Referral Service is to assist the general public, by providing a way by which any person who can afford to pay a reasonable fee for legal services may be referred to a member of the Delaware State Bar Association.
As further objectives, the Delaware State Bar association seeks to:
A. Encourage lawyers to recognize the obligation to provide legal services to the general public.
B. Acquaint people in the need of legal service with the value of consultation with a lawyer.
The Lawyer Referral Service Committee is charged with the responsibility of establishing the operating policies of the Service. The President of the Delaware State Bar Association shall appoint members of this Committee under the established rules that govern committee appointments and operations.
The Service will be operated from the Delaware State Bar Association headquarters, utilizing members of the staff under the direct supervision of the Executive Director of the Delaware State Bar Association. General operating policies for the Service will be provided by the Lawyer Referral Service Committee.
A person seeking a legal service may do so by a telephone conference or by personal appearance at the Delaware State Bar Association headquarters at which time he/she will be interviewed by a staff member. A referral will be made to an attorney on the Service panel on a rotating basis upon the agreement of such person to pay an initial fee of $35.00 provided to the initial consultation does not exceed one-half hour. The panel attorney must agree to remit this initial fee, if paid, and the completed Service Response Form back to the Delaware State Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service within a 10-day period following the consultation date. If not returned within 30 days of the referral, a reminder notice will be sent. If the consultation fee or form is still not returned after another 10-day period the Executive Director of the Delaware State Bar Association will send a letter advising that the attorney will be temporarily removed from the panel until the consultation fee or form is returned.
Once a client is referred to any attorney, that attorney maintains primary responsibility for the client’s matter and if employed by the client, until completion of the matter. This responsibility terminates only if the attorney refers the client back to the Lawyer Referral Service.
A client will be permitted to request re-assignment to another panel attorney only on two occasions after the original referral is made. After a negative response from three panel attorneys, the client will not be referred further.
Formation of the Attorney Panel
A. Any member in good standing of the Delaware State Bar Association, actively engaged in the private practice of law, in a law office in the State of Delaware, may qualify as a panel attorney. No fee is required.
B. A member, in filing his application as provided, agrees that:
(1) Any charge for further service will be as agreed upon with the client and in keeping with the stated objectives of the Service and the client’s ability to pay.
(2) He/she carries, and will continue to carry, professional liability insurance in the minimum amount of $100,000.00
(3) He/she will abide by all of the Rules of the Service as they exist upon the date of the application, and as may be adopted or amended from time to time, and will in no event hold, or claim to hold, the Association or any of its officers, members or employees liable in connection with the operation of, or use of the information contained in the application submitted to, the service.
C. (1) In submitting an application for membership on the panel, the applicant shall list up to six areas of legal work which he/she desires to handle and those areas he/she knows or should know he/she is competent to handle. In so doing, the applicant shall certify to the Delaware State Bar Association that he/she practices, has experience, and can represent a client competently in accordance with Canon 6 of the Delaware Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility. In accepting the registration of any applicant, the Service shall require such information and certifications as it deems necessary to have the applicant show that he/she is a member of the Bar in good standing, qualified to practice and adheres to the recognized ethical standards of the profession.
(2) Any applicant may be denied registration and any registered lawyer may be permanently withdrawn from registration if he/she has:
(a) Willfully failed to pay any fee, failed to render any report, or otherwise failed to abide by the Rules of the Service.
(b) Signed any application or other certification or report to the Service which shall be found to be untrue in any material respect.
(3) Except as provided in part III or these Rules, the procedure for denial of registration in the first instance or causing a registered panel attorney to be withdrawn from registration will be as follows:
(a) Upon a finding by the Chairman of the Lawyer Referral Service Committee, based on information supplied by the Executive Director of the Delaware State Bar Association or such other investigation as the chairman of such Committee shall deem sufficient, that denial or withdrawal of registration of a panel attorney is warranted, the Chairman shall give written notice, by certified mail, to such attorney of that finding and the substance of the reasons for that finding.
(b) Registration shall be denied or withdrawn in accordance with that finding, unless within ten (10) days after the date written notice is mailed as provided in subsection (a) hereof the attorney delivers to the Chairman of the Lawyer Referral Service Committee a written request for a hearing with respect to such denials or withdrawal, setting forth the facts and reasons relied upon to justify registration. Pending the outcome of such hearing registration shall neither be granted nor withdrawn.
(c) Upon receipt of a written request as provided in subsection (b) hereof, the President of the Delaware State Bar Association shall appoint a committee consisting of at least three (3) members of the Lawyer Referral Service Committee to conduct a hearing with respect to denial or withdrawal of registration. Such hearing shall be convened upon written notice to the attorney involved, and the Chairman of the Lawyer Referral Service Committee shall present to the hearing committee the evidence and argument in support of his or her finding that denial or withdrawal is justified. At such hearing the attorney will be allowed to be present, to be represented by counsel, to present witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses presented by the Chairman of the Lawyer Referral Service Committee.
(d) On the basis of the evidence presented at the hearing the committee shall determine by majority vote whether by a preponderance of the evidence registration should be denied or withdrawn, and shall give written notice, by registered mail to the attorney and the Chairman of the Lawyer Referral Service Committee, of its determination. If it determines to withdraw registration such withdrawal shall be effective immediately; if it determines not to deny or withdraw registration, registration shall be granted or continued effective immediately. The determination of the committee shall be final.
(4) Notwithstanding the provisions set forth in subparagraph (3), an applicant shall be denied registration and a registered lawyer shall be removed from the panel immediately and without hearing should any of the following occur.
(a) the suspension or disbarment of the attorney or attorney’s resignation from the practice of law;
(b) the institution against the attorney of felony charges involving moral turpitude or of misdemeanor charges involving the theft, embezzlement, or fraudulent appropriation of money or other property;
(c) the voluntary or involuntary commitment of the attorney for mental illness;
(d) the failure of the attorney to maintain current membership in the Delaware State Bar Association;
(e) the failure of the attorney to maintain professional liability insurance as required by the rules governing the Lawyer Referral Service.
Withdrawal from Membership
A panel attorney may at any time withdraw his/her name from participation in the Service upon five (5) days written notice to the Lawyer referral Service Committee addressed to the Delaware State Bar Association.
Operation of the Panel
A. Referrals will be made to members of the panel in rotation in each subject area.
B. Panel attorneys will accept any referral for initial interview in those areas which an attorney has indicated in his/her application he/she is willing and competent to handle. However, should any referral give rise to a conflict of interest, a panel attorney will contact the Service to obtain a new reference for the Client and cooperate in the transfer of the referred Client to a new panel attorney.
Records and Review
The Service will keep on file a confidential report of all referrals and reports of panel attorneys which will be subject to examination and inspection by the Executive Committee of the Delaware State Bar Association.