By: Cori Ghitter, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Policy and Education, Law Society of Alberta
Looking for the right lawyer to help with legal issues can be overwhelming and that is why many Albertans turn to the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), currently operated by the Law Society of Alberta.
After many successful years being run by Calgary Legal Guidance, in March 2020, the Law Society took LRS back in-house. The goal in doing so was, in part, to better understand how the service meets the needs of the public. Through the first year of in-house operation at the Law Society, more than 17,000 Albertans contacted LRS and were matched with lawyers who participate in the program.
LRS assists members of the public in finding a lawyer. Members of the public can contact the LRS via phone or email, advise our customer service representatives of their legal issue and then receive contact details for up to three lawyers in the relevant area of law. It is up to the member of the public to reach out to the lawyers to determine if the lawyers are a fit for their legal issue. It is important to note that LRS is a matching service, not a free legal service.
In 2021, the Law Society launched a survey to gather input from key stakeholders who have accessed the service as well as the lawyers who participate. Notably, surveys were sent out to members of the public that had accessed LRS in the past year and to participating lawyers in the program.
The survey results revealed some positive insights, showing that members of the public who retained a lawyer were satisfied with the service they received. Others had overall challenges and difficulty accessing or understanding the service or retaining a lawyer altogether.
Access to Justice is a strategic goal for the Law Society. In support of that goal, we want to make sure LRS is serving the needs of the public. To that end, we are holding a round table discussion with key Access to Justice stakeholders in November to discuss the operation of LRS, find out how their clients use the service and gather any ideas for improvement they may have. This discussion will further assist us in our decision making as we aim to improve LRS for Albertans to access much needed legal services.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.