The Bar Association of San Francisco. Lawyer Referral Service. Legal Interviewer Training Manual

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1 The Bar Association of San Francisco Lawyer Referral Service Legal Interviewer Training Manual 1998 Bar Association of San Francisco

2 Table of Contents Introduction...p. 1 Legal Interviewer job description...p. 2 Basics of the legal interview...p. 3 Phone consultations...p. 5 Case/income eligibility criteria...p. 6 Jurisdiction...p. 6 Mediation referrals...p.7 Reminders for effective client interviews...p. 8 Explanation of fees...p. 9 Income eligibility guidelines...p. 11 Filling out the referral form...p. 12 Making appointments...p. 13 Confirming and Canceling appointments...p. 14 List of shorthand used by the LRS...p. 15 Description of Panels (Introduction)...p. 16 Business Law Panel...p. 17 Criminal Law Panel...p. 18 Disability Rights Panel...p. 20 Family Law Panel...p. 21 General Law Panel...p. 24 Immigration Law Panel...p. 29 Insolvency Law Panel...p. 31 Intellectual Property Rights Panel...p. 32 Juvenile Law Panel...p. 33 Labor Relations Panel...p. 35 Legal Malpractice Panel...p. 38 Medical Malpractice Panel...p. 40 Military Law Panel...p. 41 Personal Injury Law Panel...p. 42 Probate Law Panel...p. 45 Real Estate Law Panel...p. 47 Taxation Law Panel...p. 48 Worker s Compensation Panel...p. 49

3 INTRODUCTION This manual explains the office procedures and policies of the Lawyer Referral Service. It describes how to conduct a client interview, how to mark and distribute the intake form, how to make referrals to attorneys, and includes a selection of verbal communication tools for how to best conduct the client interview. It also provides a listing of office nomenclature, income guidelines, exceptions to collecting the consultation fee, and guidelines related to screening for the Volunteer Legal Services Program (the free legal services program through the Bar Association of San Francisco). Some special types of referrals through the Lawyer Referral Service for low-income clients are also mentioned here. A compendium of the different areas of law appears at the back of the manual in the Description of Panels section. Here, each area of law is briefly described, with mention of particular case scenarios and related areas of law as they apply. A set of sample interview questions follows each area of law. The Lawyer Referral Service is a non-profit, public service of the Bar Association of San Francisco, which receives approximately 75,000 calls annually from people seeking legal assistance. Its purpose is to refer those callers to the most appropriate legal resource for their legal needs. The LRS arranges half-hour consultations for clients on both a regular fee and low fee basis at a charge of $ This fee is waived for personal injury (plaintiff), most workers' compensation, some government benefits cases, and indigent DA support referrals. The fee may be waived or delayed in cases of financial hardship or at the Office Manager s discretion. The service also makes referrals to attorney mediators for which there is no charge, and the client and mediator arrange the first meeting directly. Approximately 525 attorneys participate in the LRS, representing experience in over 100 categories of law. Attorney members who wish to participate on the Experience Panels (also called Subject Matter Panels ) must meet certain experience requirements before being eligible to receive referrals in a given area of law. No such experience requirements are necessary for membership on the low-fee panels, except for criminal and juvenile court matters, which allow an attorney to develop their experience in an area to possibly qualify for regular fee referrals. The LRS administers an Attorney to Attorney program, whereby attorneys with experience in particular areas have agreed to provide advice to less experienced practitioners. Attorneys on low-fee panels are encouraged to avail themselves of this service. Many experienced attorneys also accept referrals on the low-fee panels as part of their commitment to providing legal services to low income clients. In addition, the Service provides the initial screening for BASF's pro bono or free program, the Volunteer Legal Services Program. The LRS staff of trained legal interviewers includes persons fluent in Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese), Vietnamese, and French. In addition to attorney referrals, the LRS has access to a wide array of alternative resources, such as community and governmental agencies, if such resources would better serve the client s needs. 1

4 Legal Interviewer Lawyer Referral Service Job Summary: Interview clients by telephone, specify legal needs, classify legal issues, and refer callers with legal problems to appropriate panel attorneys. Screen clients for their income to determine eligibility for either low-fee or pro bono assistance. Schedule appointments with attorneys and process office forms. Make referrals to social service or governmental agencies, when appropriate. Provide other administrative assistance as necessary. Major responsibilities: 1. Answer telephones promptly and determine reason for call. 2. Interview callers to determine nature of problem and classify legal issues to make appropriate referral. 3. Provide information to callers who want or need to contact other agencies. 4. Explain to callers the services available through the Lawyer Referral Service. 5. Screen clients for financial and case-type eligibility for low-fee and pro bono assistance. 6. Contact attorneys to arrange appointments, taking into consideration a client s special needs such as language, geographic location and wheelchair accessibility, while maintaining correct rotational order of the panel cards. 7. Record all necessary data on intake form and panel cards. 8. Process forms to attorneys, clients and other staff as appropriate. 9. Confirm appointments with clients, send out disposition and client questionnaire forms; notify attorneys if an appointment is canceled and rotate the attorney s card up to the top of the panel. 10. Attend staff training sessions and consult with Office Manager and other staff members to ensure accurate and precise information is given to attorneys and clients. 11. Help train and assist new employees with questions about intake and referral. 2

5 THE BASICS OF THE LEGAL INTERVIEW A. The mechanics of the phone 1) The phones in the Lawyer Referral Service are connected to an automatic call distribution system. This means that calls are automatically distributed in succession to all interviewers who are logged-on to the system and are available to take a call. The specifics of the workings of the phone will be explained to a new interviewer upon the beginning of employment. 2) Stay "ready" (the term used in the phone system for being available to receive a client call) as often as possible so that a client can speak to you as quickly as possible. Sometimes this means not completing all the necessary information from the previous call onto the referral form. Taking notes during an interview allows you to be able to complete the referral form at a later time when you finish the next call or when calls slow. B. The primary and overall goal of the interview process The primary goal of the client interview is to obtain the specific information necessary for referral to a lawyer or an appropriate legal agency. Such a process requires general knowledge of a large number of legal areas and as well as an understanding of the other legal agencies and organizations in the City that provide specialized assistance. Both are required for effective client referral. Whether to intake a case or not will depend on many factors, some of which apply to all areas of law, such as jurisdiction, damages and legal time limits. The particular facts of the client s situation, however, will always serve as the principle intake guide, such that a very serious injury or an egregious breach of a person s legal rights may override the fact that the case is in, for example, an adjacent jurisdiction or one on the verge of exceeding a legal time limit. The overall goal when speaking with clients is not only to convey the appropriate information that best matches their needs, but also to conduct the interview with a helpful, empathetic and professional tone, listening attentively and without judging their situation. Should a client become frustrated or irate, resist rising to their level of anger and respond by speaking slowly and in a low voice. Sometimes the client needs more explanation about why you need to ask them questions or assurances that they can trust you with their information. Sometimes faulty assumptions from you or them may be getting in the way of achieving a mutual understanding. Acknowledge the client s emotion or difficulty and clarify misinterpretations you or the client may have made. The most important feature to the interview is remaining calm and understanding while obtaining the necessary information to help the client most effectively. Refer to the Reminders for Effective Client Interview on page 8 of this manual for other helpful suggestions. 3

6 C. How to conduct the client interview 1) Ask the client to briefly describe his or her legal problem and guide the caller with appropriate questions to the specifics. If you can ascertain from the beginning that he or she would be better served by calling a community or government agency, then refer the client to that agency by giving him or her the phone number and any relevant information about the services the agency provides. If the agency has limited intake hours, be sure to give this information to the client. 2) If you decide that the problem is one which is best served by a referral to an LRS panel attorney, then explain the services the LRS provides. Specifically, we set up a half-hour consultation for the client to meet with an appropriately experienced attorney for a $25.00 fee; in some instances, that fee may be waived and tell the client there will be no charge. Any further services and any further fees after the initial 30 minute consultation are to be arranged between the client and the attorney. It usually takes around one business day to arrange an appointment, although some cases, which are uncomplicated to refer, can be handled more quickly. 3) If the client is interested in meeting with a lawyer, ask the client for their gross monthly income (that is, the income before taxes are withdrawn) to determine whether they qualify for low fee or free legal services. If their income meets or is below the guidelines set by the Legal Services Corporation (see the "Explanation of Fees" section), the client might be referred to the Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP). Details of the kinds of cases that the VLSP handles are in the "Explanation of Fees" section. If the client meets the low-fee guidelines, there is usually the $25.00 consultation fee but this can be waived or delayed depending on the circumstances of the case and the client's income. Again, look for more detail regarding this in the "Explanation of Fees" section. 4) After the legal problem has been determined and the financial screening has been done, tell the client to call back the next day anytime after 2pm to get the name of the attorney and the time and place of the appointment. An appointment may be arranged more quickly than usual, especially if the case involves serious personal injury, or an immediate legal deadline. If this is the case, inform the client that you will call him or her with the appointment information as soon as an appointment has been scheduled, usually within the hour. 5) As much as possible, keep interviews concise. Make sure the caller understands how the referral service works from as early in the conversation as possible. If a caller is unclear why you are asking many questions, clarify for them that the attorneys need to know some specifics about their legal matter in order to accept the referral. In the event that a client becomes frustrated, irritated, or too upset, the client may ask to speak to the Office Manager or Director. First, explain the situation to the Office Manager. He or she will almost always speak to the client first and when necessary so will the LRS Director. 4

7 Phone consultations When to do a phone consultation It is always appropriate to do a phone consultation for a client who lives far away, out of state or in another county, and certainly for a client who is house-bound, injured, in immigration or police custody, or so ill as not to be able to leave the house. It may also be necessary to arrange a phone consult for a client who will need a home visit from an attorney, usually for purposes of drafting a will or making changes to existing documents, wills, property deeds, etc. The phone consult allows for the attorney to better understand exactly what the client needs and be prepared to bring the appropriate paperwork to the home of the client in a second appointment arranged by the client and the attorney. It is also possible that a phone consult may be arranged when a referral has already received three refusals, the number of refusals used to indicate possibly not continuing to refer the client s case. Making a phone consultation for a client who otherwise was to get an office appointment is often a determination made by the Office Manager. Often this will occur in personal injury, worker s compensation or medical malpractice cases, in which an attorney might not be willing to sacrifice their place in rotation for the referral (phone consults do not rotate the attorney s card, as discussed under the section Making the appointment with the attorney ) but might be willing to provide the brief advice necessary to the client over the phone. Processing a phone consultation If the phone consultation is for a matter where no consultation fee is paid, the referral is processed in the same way as an office appointment. If a fee is due, however, this can be handled in a number of ways. (1) The simplest and most desirable is to charge the consultation fee to a VISA or MASTERCARD (only). If a client has either of these, get his or her card number and expiration date at the time of the intake. Write it at the top, tear-off strip of the intake form. Whoever eventually makes the referral would then follow the instructions on the credit card machine to charge the client's card, and then immediately give the intake form to the Program Assistant to be entered into the computer. (2) If a client does not have a credit card that can be used, he or she must send a check or money order for $25 to the referral service. The following procedures apply: The client should make the check payable to the Bar Association of San Francisco, or BASF ; the client should write the intake number on the memo line of the check, and the check should be mailed to BASF's street address, with the name of the interviewer who did the intake in the address. The completed intake form is placed on the referral table, to wait the arrival of the check, before a referral is made. On the top, tear-off strip of the intake form is written, wait for $ If the client s legal problem is urgent, and waiting for the check to reach us before scheduling the appointment is a problem, the 5

8 appointment can be scheduled prior to the arrival of the check. In this case, put a post-it on the intake form reminding whoever confirms the appointment that he or she will need to write down the client s name and appointment information on the "Phone consultations/waiting for money" form on the referral table. A consultation fee may also be delayed. The explanation of delayed fees is under the "Explanation of Fees" section. Additional points to remember during the client interview: CASE/INCOME ELIGIBILITY FOR LOW-FEE OR PRO BONO SERVICES: When screening clients for their income and eligibility for the low-fee or pro bono legal services programs, be sure that the legal problem also qualifies. Fee-generating or affirmative cases, ones in which significant money damages are possible if the client prevails, cannot be handled under these two programs and therefore are referred as regular fee cases. It is therefore not necessary to ascertain client income with affirmative cases. JURISDICTION: Where a client s legal matter needs to be filed depends on two criteria: where the alleged wrong or harm took place, or where the party to be sued resides. If a corporation is the party against which the client wishes to file suit, the corporation must do business or have offices in the San Francisco area for jurisdiction to be established here. Make sure the client wants and needs an appointment in San Francisco. Often callers think we have attorneys in other counties, which we do not. Refer the client to the appropriate state or out of county LRS, if the jurisdiction is outside San Francisco. Note that in some cases, such as Personal Injury, Legal and Medical Malpractice, or Probate, or any other situation where the client may have substantial damages, an attorney through the BASF-LRS may accept such a referral so long as the county is not too distant. Be aware too that although a caller may reside in San Francisco, where they reside does not generally determine where their legal matter needs to be addressed. Despite residency here, the client may still need to call another county or state s LRS if that is where the events of the case took place or where the other party resides. However, some exceptions to this general guideline about residency do exist. For many areas of law, panel members can easily and readily address issues in nearby counties. In certain areas, however, such as landlord/tenant law, this will probably not be the case. This is because different counties and different cities have their own regulations and ordinances regarding this area of law. Family law and criminal law cases are also very closely tied to the originating county. In the former, the client needs to file in the county where they live or their spouse lives, or where an order or divorce has already been filed; and in the latter, the client is often better served with a referral to a lawyer who regularly practices in the county where the charges have been filed. Be aware that many low-fee matters in a different county are virtually impossible to refer to our low-fee attorneys 6

9 because of the travel time to another county that may be necessary for filing, depositions, court appearances, etc. If you have any questions regarding the suitability of an intake on this basis, ask an experienced interviewer or the Office Manager. MEDIATION: Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that can be used in some of the situations that traditionally are handled in an adversarial manner through litigation. If a client is calling about a matter in which the client and the other party have some ongoing relationship or contact (family law, landlord-tenant, etc.), mediation may be an option. NEVER TELL A CLIENT THAT HE OR SHE SHOULD USE MEDIATION INSTEAD OF ANOTHER PROCESS. Rather, when completing the intake as described above, tell the client that the LRS also has a panel of attorney mediators. If the client asks for details, explain that mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps people to resolve their dispute. You may also explain that the mediator will contact both the client and the other party in order to arrange a first meeting. If a client asks the cost for a mediator, you can explain that the cost is one shared between the two parties such that each usually pays half of the mediator s rate, which averages at $ per hour. Ask the client if you may include a pamphlet with information about the LRS Mediation Panel in the same envelope with the client questionnaire. DO NOT DISCONTINUE THE REGULAR INTAKE PROCESS. If, either in response to this pamphlet or just on their own, a client should call and say they want a mediator, then fill out the mediation intake form (see sample). Note that the information written after "Nature of dispute" will be less detailed than the information in a regular intake. *** NEVER GIVE LEGAL ADVICE! What constitutes legal advice as opposed to legal information is at once obvious and subtle. Certainly explanations to a client regarding their time deadlines, statute of limitations, how to appeal a case, advice on the legality of something, etc. are a few examples of information which is legal advice. Noting the appropriate jurisdiction for a case, or providing common sense suggestions, such as having the client call or write to, for example, the hospital administration or business about the rudeness of an employee, would not constitute legal advice. There can be gray area, however, between these delineations. It is very important, however, that when making a helpful, non-legal suggestion, that the client understand that you are not giving legal advice. It is wise to inform or remind the caller that you are not a lawyer, just to avoid any wrong perception. Other types of information that may not seem like legal advice, for example, commenting on the actions of an attorney who the client is complaining about, or confirming for the client that some kind of legal action should take place, may in fact be legal advice. If you are unsure, it is always best to err on the side of not commenting on what the client says, or checking with a senior legal interviewer or the Office Manager to be absolutely sure. 7

10 A FEW REMINDERS FOR EFFECTIVE CLIENT INTERVIEWS 1. CONVEY A HELPFUL TONE AND AN UPBEAT ATTITUDE IN YOUR VOICE The quality of your voice matters! Studies have shown that about 80% of what people understand from a verbal communication is conveyed by the tone of voice rather than by the actual words spoken. Tone of voice, pauses, and silences can change the understanding of what you may mean to communicate. Maintaining an even, helpful tone, a bright voice and an unhurried response, help to communicate information in a positive way, even when the information itself is negative, e.g. the client s legal matter could not be referred through the service. The same applies in the alternative: Conveying positive information in a monotone voice, without an upbeat tone may cause the client to feel negative about the service, even though they have, in fact, received a referral. Remember the importance of a pleasant tone and attitude when speaking with clients. 2. LISTEN WITH EMPATHY AND NON-JUDGMENTALLY Sometimes the client calling in for legal services is frustrated with their legal problem or distraught and confused by the legal system. Their emotion can sometimes be displaced onto you, the legal interviewer. Becoming frustrated or annoyed in response to it often serves only to escalate the client s frustration. Maintain as neutral and as helpful a tone as possible, interjecting appropriate questions to calm and guide the caller whenever possible. Acknowledging the caller s frustration is a good technique to getting past their complaint and frustration to the substance of the legal matter at hand. Most importantly, maintain an open mind to any situation no matter how small or off-track it may seem, offering an empathetic ear and whatever suggestions you have available. Openness and non-judgmental listening, along with empathy, are the best combination of communication techniques to establish trust and rapport with the client. 3. BE RESPECTFUL AND PATIENT Remember that the majority of clients who call have never had a legal problem and may have difficulty articulating the information you need to make a referral. Whether some matters are ones you have heard time and time again, or ones heard for the first time, it is important to remain respectful of the client. Exercising a willingness to stay on the line to fully understand the client s needs, legal or non-legal, is the essence of the legal interviewer s job. Even when the interview does not result in a referral, a client may still appreciate you for listening to see if anything could be done. Overall, remember patience and professionalism when speaking with clients so as to best address their needs and allow them to feel they have contacted a service that attempts to assist whenever possible. 8

11 EXPLANATION OF FEES REGULAR FEE The majority of LRS clients are referred on a regular fee basis, which means that the client does not qualify for low-fee or no-fee services. The income eligibility guidelines are on the next page. A $25.00 fee is charged to clients for referrals in all matters except the following: Cases in which no referral fee is charged: Personal Injury ($25.00 is charged for PI defense); Medical Malpractice (plaintiffs only); SSI (security supplemental income) and SSD (social security disability); SDI (state disability insurance) only when client s household income is at or below low-fee income guidelines; Indigent DA support cases (which are referred on the low fee panel. These referrals are explained in "Making the Appointments with the Attorneys"); Workers' Compensation (plaintiffs only), including Longshoreman; Exception: Federal Workers' Compensation referrals are charged the $25.00 fee if the household income is above low-fee guidelines; employers pay $25.00 for consultation on Worker s Comp; Workers Compensation cases which involve federal longshore cases; NIS (non-income spouse) divorce cases when the client s income is below the pro bono income guidelines or at Office Manager s discretion; VLSP income qualified clients with child support defense cases, referred on the low-fee family panel; For reasons of economic hardship, dissatisfaction with a first referral, etc. always at the Office Manager s discretion. Referrals are made from the appropriate regular fee panel cards, and, if the client decides to hire the attorney for further services, fees are negotiated between the client and the attorney. DELAYED FEES If a client is unable to pay the referral fee at the present time, but will be able to do so in the near future, his or her fee can be delayed to a certain date. A delayed fee is postponed until the 1st or 15th of the current or next month. The "delayed" box is checked on the intake form and the delayed date is written next to that box. The first part of the delayed fee form should be filled out, and the form should be paper-clipped to the intake form. When the appointment is made, the interviewer making the appointment should fill out the second part of the delayed fee form. When the appointment is confirmed, the delayed fee form is given to the Program Assistant. A fee can be delayed until judgment if a client is very low on funds and has a matter that is potentially fee-generating, meaning money damages are possible at the end of the case. If a fee is delayed until judgment, it will be collected when and if the client wins the case. If you delay a fee until judgment, mark the delayed box on the intake form, and write until judgment next 9

12 to the box. Neither type of delay is granted often. Clients should be encouraged to pay the fee at the time of the consult. If you are not sure if delaying the fee is appropriate, consult with an experienced interviewer or the Office Manager. LOW-FEE Clients whose income is slightly above the amount which would qualify them for free legal services (see guidelines on following page) may be eligible for a low-fee referral. There are corresponding low-fee panels for all the regular fee panels, with the exception of Disability Rights, Legal Malpractice, Mediation and Workers Compensation. Attorneys on the low-fee panels agree to charge eligible clients substantially less than their usual rates. With the exception of Criminal and Juvenile Law, attorneys on low-fee panels do not have to meet experience requirements in the area of law for which they receive low-fee referrals. If a client meets the income eligibility for a low-fee referral, such a referral should be made. The $25.00 consultation fee is charged for the referral. (This fee can be delayed or waived, depending on the client s circumstances). If you do a low-fee intake, check the low fee box on the intake form, and write LOW FEE in the upper left-hand corner of the form. **Certain types of cases are never referred on a low-fee basis. If a case is potentially feegenerating or affirmative, meaning the client wants to sue the other party for money, it would not be referred low-fee. In such cases, the attorney will usually agree to take his or her fee based on the outcome of the case (contingency), and will not reduce their fee. Fee-generating cases are never referred on the low-fee panels. FREE SERVICES (PRO BONO) Clients who meet eligibility requirements, in terms of both income (see guidelines next page) and type of case, are referred to the Volunteer Legal Service Program (VLSP) of the Bar Association of San Francisco. VLSP does not accept the following types of cases: Immigration cases (except where someone is being deported because they are HIV positive) Criminal cases Child support modification unrelated to any custody issue Collection of child support Answers to 5-day eviction notices (Refer these clients to the Eviction Defense Collective) Set-asides for default judgments in eviction cases Contested adoption cases Name changes for minors (refer them to Legal Assistance for Children) Workers' compensation cases, Personal Injury (except possibly defense), Labor Any fee-generating cases Any matter of any kind where jurisdiction is not in San Francisco Sometimes it can be difficult to decide if a particular client should be referred to the VLSP. If possible, try to ask someone in that department if a particular matter is appropriate. If this is not possible, ask an experienced LRS interviewer or the Office Manager. LRS does all the initial 10

13 screening for the VLSP, and clients should not be given the VLSP number without proper screening. When a client is given the VLSP number, he or she should also be told the proper times to call. Below is the listing of current income guidelines used to determine a client s eligibility for low fee and VLSP referral. Note that family law cases having their own separate low-income guidelines. Number in household INCOME ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES Maximum Gross Monthly Income By Family Size Family LOW FEE Non- Family Family VLSP Non- Family 1 1, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , FILLING OUT THE REFERRAL FORM 1. Date the form. 2. Fill in client's name. 3. Fill in client's mailing address. It is particularly wise to ask the client if it is okay to send a questionnaire to their homes (e.g., in family law cases). If for any reason the questionnaire is not going to be sent, immediately tear it off of the intake form and dispose of it. 4. Fill in client s home and work phone numbers. Again, make sure it is not a problem for the client to be called at home or at work. 5. Give a brief description of the client's legal problem with enough appropriate detail. 6. Check the appropriate box for area of law in which the referral should be made. 11

14 7. Check the appropriate fee box: If it is a low-fee referral, phone consultation, Spanish necessary, etc., write low-fee, phone, Spanish, on the top left-hand corner of the form. Also make sure the box is marked if the fee is waived or delayed. 8. Fill in the time the client would like to see an attorney. This can be more or less specific depending on the client's need. Obviously, the more general the client can be, the easier it will be for LRS to schedule an appointment. Also indicate here a request for a specific district(s) of San Francisco. 9. Indicate here if the client has requested an attorney who speaks a language other than English. Never make an assumption about this. It should be the client's request. 10. Check the referral source or write in what the client says if it is different from the choices. 11. Indicate the client's gross monthly income here. If the client declines to give a specific amount simply write, "decline to state." 12. Indicate here when the client is to call the LRS or the LRS call the client. 13. The intake interviewer should put his/her initials here. The interviewer who referred the case to an attorney should mark their initials on this line also. A slash is used to separate the two interviewers initials. After the appointment is made with the attorney: 14. Fill in the attorney's name, address, BASF-I.D. number, and phone number. 15. Fill in the information regarding the time and date of the appointment. 16. Indicate here if it is a phone consultation. 17. Interviewer who makes the appointment should initial the form here. 18. Indicate here if it is a phone, an NIS, low-fee, Spanish, or a second or third referral. 12

15 MAKING THE APPOINTMENT WITH THE ATTORNEYS: Rotation; Confirmations and Cancellations of Appointments Interviewers are usually divided each day between those who will make appointments (designated referrers or "DR"s) and those who will take calls from the public. Usually there are two people who are DRs. The DRs should take the stack of forms for a given category along with the appropriate panel cards. The cards must be kept in the correct rotational order until an appointment is made. 1. Scan the intakes. Read through them so that the legal problem is understood. If there is something that is not understandable, ask the interviewer who did the intake for clarification. Check for special requirements that the client may have, i.e. languages, location of office, non-income spouse, etc. 2. Call the first appropriately qualified attorney in rotation and date the back of the card. When you place a call to an attorney, his/her card will always be marked on the back in some way, with indication about what happened when you called. 3. If the attorney is not available for whatever reason, such as being on the phone, out to lunch, in conference, etc., this would be indicated under the column "res", which stands for reason, and not refusal, for why a referral wasn t made to the attorney. This column would also indicate if the attorney is unable to accept the appointment because of a conflict of interest or inability to schedule at the client s requested time or for any reason that does not address the merits of the case. 4. If the attorney refuses the referral on the merits of the case (i.e. the money involved is too small, there is not much chance of success, etc.), this is marked down as a refusal and is indicated under the column marked, "ref", for refusal. Three refusals in a row results in the attorney's card being moved to the back of the rotation. The attorney should be made aware of this at the time. If it is unclear whether an attorney's response should be noted under the "res" column or the "ref" column, ask an experienced interviewer or the Office Manager. 5. If the attorney accepts the referral, put a check mark in the "acc" (accepted) column and move the card to the back of the panel. 6. EXCEPTIONS TO THE ROTATION: Do not move the card back if:. the referral is a phone consultation. the referral is for *"NIS" family law case (explained below). the referral is an indigent DA child support matter (explained below) Write Ph (phone), NIS (non-income spouse) or DA (for child support) next to the check in the acceptance column. 7. Fill in the appropriate information on the intake form for the attorney and the appointment. Put the form back on the referral table in chronological order of the time of the appointment. 13

16 CONFIRMING AND CANCELING APPOINTMENTS It is the responsibility of all of the interviewers to insure that appointments are confirmed or canceled. Clients are usually instructed to call to confirm at a certain time. Regardless of this, one interviewer is usually assigned the task of calling the clients for whom referrals have been made for the following day to help assure that appointments get confirmed. All appointments should be confirmed or canceled within four hours of the appointment time. If the client confirms the appointment: 1. Put a check in the upper right hand corner of the form and include your initials inside it. 2. Tear off the perforated strip at the top of the form, thus dividing the form into 3 separate pages. 3. File the top page by client s last name in the alphabetical accordion box designated for these forms on the referral table for the Program Assistant to enter into the computer. 4. Send the disposition page (the second page) to the attorney to whom the referral was made. Fold the forms so that the attorney's address will clearly show in a window envelope. Include a lock-box envelope inside the window envelope, leaving it out if the attorney will not be collecting the consultation fee. 5. Send the last page to the client along with a business reply envelope and a red LRS magnet. Again, fold the form such that the client's address shows in a window envelope. If the client cancels the appointment, or we are unable to reach the client to confirm the appointment: 6. Call the attorney's office 4 hours prior to the appointment time to cancel, if the client hasn t called to confirm. Or, call the attorney as soon as the client has told you they no longer want the appointment. 7. Find the attorney's card in rotation. Put the referral form number in the space next to the accepted check on the card and write "cx". Move the attorney's card to the top of the rotation. Keep in mind that if the attorney's card had not been rotated back for the referral (see examples in #5 of "MAKING APPOINTMENTS WITH THE ATTORNEYS"), then his/her card would stay where it is in rotation after a cancellation. 8. Write "CX" on the upper right hand corner of the form and put the form in the cx, A-Z accordion folder, alphabetically by the client's last name. 9. If a form used for an intake is not referred (referral was attempted and not possible, client changed his/her mind, client had not called back by assigned time and appointment not yet made, etc.), then the form is properly marked and put into the nr, A-Z accordion 14

17 folder alphabetically by the client's last name. 10. When a client calls in for their appointment after it has been canceled, do the following: Check first to see if the attorney referred to the client has already received a new referral. If the attorney s card is at the back of the rotation, they have most likely received a new referral. If however, the attorney s card is still at the front of the rotation, go ahead and give the client the appointment information and rotate the attorney s card to the back again. The following is a list with explanations of common shorthand used in the LRS: NR not referable This is written in the upper right-hand corner of an intake form when the case becomes non-referable and we stop working on the referral. NR(circled) The client has been informed that his/her matter has not been referred to an attorney. SID see if dependable This is written on the top tear-off portion of the intake form, indicating an intake that is not being worked on pending the reliability of the client to call back once. This is made in the upper right-hand corner of an intake form, with your initials included, to indicate that the appointment has been confirmed with the client. This is made in the upper right-hand corner of an intake form to indicate that the form was taken apart and its respective parts sent to the client and the attorney even though it was not confirmed with the client. NIS non-income spouse This is written on the upper left-hand corner of an intake form to indicate that it is one of these types of matters. It is also written on the panel cards when an attorney takes such a case to indicate why the card was not rotated to the back of the panel. DA district attorney This is written by the waived box of the intake form to indicate that the client is indigent and is being pursued by the DA for child support payments. It is also written on the panel cards when an attorney takes such a case to indicate why the card was not rotated to the back of the panel. CDC client didn t call This is written in the upper right-hand corner of the intake form. It indicates a matter that was not yet referred at the time client was to call back, so referral attempts suspended. DC don t count This is written on the panel cards to indicate a refusal by the attorney that will not be counted against them as a refusal. DR designated referrer Used in oral communication to indicate an interviewer who will refer only (not do intakes) until that task is completed. COI conflict of interest, indicating why an attorney was unable to schedule an appointment with a client. 15

18 DESCRIPTION OF PANELS The following section describes the areas of law covered by the various referral panels. In many cases, the referral cards for each panel are self-explanatory. Currently, there are 18 experience panels, most with an equivalent low-fee panel. Each panel card has sub-categories of specific issues which include over 100 specific subject areas within the 18 general categories of law represented. A sale of a business would be referred to an attorney on the business panel who handles that area of law, slip and fall injuries to attorneys on the personal injury panel, and so on. Copies of the panel cards are included in this section. Studying them carefully, together with the numerous sub-categories on the various panels, will answer many questions about how any individual matter would be referred. The information in this section will provide basic information about the panels. Following each panel description are sets of questions to help guide your interview in the particular area of law. Also included is a short list of the most commonly referred cases in that area of law. Keep in mind that sometimes an intake is cross-referenced with another area of law, such as immigration and family. Each attorney panel card lists at the bottom all other LRS panels to which that attorney belongs. Refer to that information when making such a referral to ensure that the client is referred to an attorney with the appropriate combination of experience. **The information that follows is not information you would dispense to clients. It is solely for the purpose of background knowledge for you to best understand what elements are necessary for intake and referral in a given area of law. Much of this information could constitute legal advice, which we are legally barred from providing. Once again, do not advise clients with any of the elements described in the foregoing. Use it only as information to be able to assess legal situations. 16

19 BUSINESS LAW PANEL Description: This panel includes matters related to starting a business (business formation), incorporation, partnership, joint venture, the sale or purchase of a business or franchise, disputes between partners, stockholders, and contractors, business licensing requirements, sales contracts and business financing issues. This panel also includes international trade (import/export), customs disputes, issues related to anti-trust (unfair competition), pension and profit sharing plans and securities litigation. Sample Questions: GENERAL BUSINESS: Do you have your own business? If yes, is your business in San Francisco? How long have you had this business? What type of business is it? If no, is the party you are having a dispute with located in San Francisco? Do you have a written contract for goods or services with the other party? What do you want an attorney to help you accomplish or what is the nature of the dispute with respect to the business? How much money has been invested, spent, or lost? How much is potentially at stake? What is the business name of the other party? SECURITIES: For securities issues, seek to understand how much the client invested or lost, which brokerage firm is involved or at fault and what the broker failed to do to cause either a substantial stock loss, or complications in executing stock transactions. It is often essential to know the name of the brokerage firm to guard against a conflict of interest which the attorney or their firm may have with the particular brokerage involved. MOST COMMONLY REFERRED CASES: Formation of a business which may include drafting business contracts, partnership agreements and incorporation; dissolution of a business which may include sale of the business and dissolution of a partnership; conflicts with suppliers, competitors, construction companies; stock broker negligence which has resulted in significant investment losses. 17

20 CRIMINAL LAW PANEL Description: Includes all matters related to criminal defendants who have been suspected or charged with violating the California or Federal penal codes. The District Attorney holds the criminal defendant to answer the charge in court and the Public Defender or private criminal defense attorney represents the accused in proceedings. The Public Defender assists defendants for free who qualify because of their very low income and the low fee and regular fee criminal law panel attorneys assist defendants with corresponding incomes. Sometimes a defendant qualifies for the P.D. but would prefer to hire private counsel. Such a client may get a low fee referral and in some cases, may need to demonstrate their commitment by first sending the $25.00 referral fee. Any situation in which the client has been charged with a crime, or believes they may be charged with a crime because of recent contact with the police or investigators, should be referred on the Criminal Law Panel. Some proceedings may be in federal criminal court because the alleged crime occurred on federal property or is an issue of interstate prosecution or Federal law. These are also referable. One type of claim referred on the criminal panel, called forfeitures, is quasi civil in nature. This refers to property, possessions or money seized by the police and held by them as evidence in the criminal case. Not all attorneys on the criminal panel will handle this type of claim but those who do have it indicated in writing on their cards. How to distinguish between what crimes are misdemeanors or felonies is sometimes difficult. One standard is the amount of sentence a criminal defendant could receive. For misdemeanor cases the sentence is defined as one year or less and for felonies it is minimum of 16 months, (unless the charge is an attempt of a felony crime, e.g. attempted burglary.) The better standard for purposes of referring clients correctly is to judge by the seriousness of the crime. The less serious the crime, i.e. where other people have not been gravely hurt, the more likely the charge is a misdemeanor. Some examples include Driving Under the Influence (DUI), petty theft, domestic violence (battery) cases, solicitation of prostitution, possession of marijuana (not for sale). Some examples of felonies include, DUI when another party has become injured, rape, drug possession, sale and distribution, grand theft, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, murder and so on. If the client knows, and sometimes they will, in which department of criminal court they need to appear, you may be able to clarify the level of crime, if you are unsure. Misdemeanors are addressed in Departments 13-18, and Felonies in Departments (Depts. 10, 11 and 20 correspond to the Magistrate courts which determine if a wrongdoing should be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.) Of course, check with a senior legal interviewer or the Office Manager if you are unsure which level corresponds to the client s charge. Sometimes criminal defendants will call the LRS collect. Unfortunately, we do not accept these calls. 18

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