City Bar’s Legal Referral Service Waives Initial Consultation Fee During Pandemic
The New York City Bar Legal Referral Service (LRS) has waived its $35 initial consultation fee for all legal issues until further notice, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
LRS, which was established in 1946 and is the longest-running lawyer referral service in New York State, provides legal information and referrals to more than 65,000 people per year. Callers and visitors to the LRS website discuss their issues with attorney referral counselors (all of whom are lawyers themselves) and receive referrals to rigorously screened participating lawyers whose practices align with the legal help needed. The initial inquiry to LRS and preliminary discussion with an attorney referral counselor has always been free, and now so is the initial consultation of up to 30 minutes with the referred lawyer. In many cases, LRS determines that a referral to an LRS participating lawyer is not appropriate and a referral is made to other, more cost-effective resources.
Bracing for the “Next Legal Wave”
LRS reports that approximately two-thirds of the current requests it receives for legal help are referred to participating lawyers because of the seriousness of the issues presented. Pre-pandemic, only one-third of requests were referred. And LRS expects the number of inquiries from the public to increase substantially in the months ahead.
“As we have seen with other disasters and crises – nationally and locally – once health, safety, food and shelter become somewhat less immediate issues, legal issues follow in the next wave,” said George Wolff, Executive Director of LRS. “While the courts are not yet open in a significant way, as the public becomes more aware of court reopening announcements and moratoriums on certain proceedings – such as the initial June 20 eviction moratorium and its extension to August 20 – requests for legal help will increase.”
Wolff adds that August is the apex of the LRS’s seasonal curve in terms of the number of requests for legal help. “Depending upon what happens with the courts and the opening up of society at large, we may see a significant uptick in requests in the late summer and/or perhaps early fall,” he said.
Anticipated Legal Issues
Legal referral services have a history of responding to crises, including 9/11, and LRS’s current data echoes some aspects of the beginning years of the Great Recession (2008-2010). As one might expect given the economic fallout from the pandemic, Landlord/Tenant and Employment are the two areas of law topping the list so far in 2020. Perhaps counter-intuitively, bankruptcy does not even register in the Top 10 for 2020 yet, though that may change when stimulus payments and rent moratoriums end; and Administrative Law (which includes unemployment claims) may increase dramatically depending upon what happens with businesses after they no longer can rely on SBA loans.
The Legal Referral Service is available by phone, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (closed from 1 PM-2 PM) at 212-626-7373 or en español 212-626-7374, or anytime online at https://www.nycbar.org/get-legal-help/
About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 24,000 members, is to equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world. www.nycbar.org