Celebrating 75 years serving the community: 1946-2021
This coming August, the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) of BASF will officially turn 75. The dynamic growth and changes to the program over the last seven and a half decades are a reflection of trends and changes in law, society, communications, and demographics. From the days of handwritten intakes, membership information on 3×5″ index cards and Yellow Page advertising to “in the cloud” database and telephony, live web chat, Zoom teleconferencing and Google ad campaigns, our California State Bar certified LRIS is evolving to efficiently match persons seeking legal assistance with our experienced attorneys. And now we look to a future of hybrid remote and in-person work with our team.
The one constant is that the LRIS remains BASF’s oldest and largest public service program, committed to providing access to legal education and affordable, competent legal representation for the public, and benefits and services to attorneys and the courts.
In its inception in 1946, the “Lawyer Reference Service” was formed to assist returning World War II veterans, but quickly began helping any person in need of legal assistance. This commitment to providing legal services to all groups continues to shape the program today, and since 1973, has included the provision of qualified attorneys for appointment by the criminal, juvenile and family courts to indigent adults and children. Today, the LRIS not only qualifies attorneys for the court programs through a rigorous application process that includes peer reference reviews, but also calendars up to 15 of these same qualified attorneys each day to appear in the courts and annually processes more than 10,000 attorney, investigator and expert bills for the work done.
The LRIS also provides veterans’ legal services programs, immigration programs, low-income legal services for seniors, a business law center and specialty referrals for the legal needs of the merchant community, persons with disabilities and the catastrophically injured. In 2014, the LRIS expanded services to Marin County, to provide for the legal needs of communities there in the absence of a local, certified lawyer referral service.
At the core of the LRIS’s information and referral operations is a multi-lingual staff of eight diligent legal interviewers, who carefully screen each call and online request. This year, approximately 50,000 people will contact the Service and about 10,000 will be referred to attorneys in more than 100 discreet areas of practice. Approximately 10% will meet income eligibility requirements for the LRIS Low-Fee Program to be referred to lawyers who have agreed to substantially reduce their hourly rates. The public service nature of the program also includes: screening for pro bono clients for the Justice and Diversity Center, Homeless Advocacy Program, the Conflict Intervention Service in residential and commercial landlord tenant disputes, the Veterans Legal Resource Hub or V-Hub, and administering the Attorney-to-Attorney Advice Program when attorneys need advice in an unfamiliar legal area, and Lawyer on Call, when clients need brief advice.
Moving forward into the next 75 years, the LRIS expects to stay robust and responsive to the changes that will come with the future of law, but one thing is known for sure – for whatever legal needs are occurring in our communities, we’ll be there.
BASF’s LRIS is a State Bar Certified and ABA Approved Model Lawyer Referral and Information Service Program, well-known nationally for its outstanding legal assistance to the public. Refer with confidence those clients outside your practice area: (415) 989-1616 or https://www.sfbar.org/legal-help/