JusticeReferrals.org is a new website designed and developed by Civil Justice to use technology to efficiently connect Marylanders facing serious legal needs with legal representation.

The Problem - Cold Referrals Let Clients Slip Through Cracks And Warm Referrals Are Too Time-Consuming

No lawyer or organization can take on every meritorious case that they encounter. We at Civil Justice believe that the next best thing to providing someone with legal representation is connecting them with the right lawyer who can. But traditional referrals are fraught with uncertainty if a “cold referral” is made – when the referring lawyer points the potential client to a different lawyer or resource in the hopes that a connection is made.  Cold referrals are fast to make, but much less effective, because they rely on a client, often in crisis, being able to connect with the attorney to tell their whole story without understanding which portions of the story are legally significant.  Cold referrals are less likely to be successful, and frequently result in a client bouncing from one lawyer to the next, leading to frustration, disillusionment, and abandonment of meritorious cases.   

In contrast, a “warm referral” can be made where calls and e-mails are placed on behalf of the potential client to lawyers to attempt to secure representation.  Warm referrals have a much greater chance of success, but can be time consuming.  Warm referrals are superior to cold referrals because the client’s story can be gathered and told by the legal professionals making the referrals.  Yet most legal professionals encounter difficulties making such referrals. They may not know which lawyers or organizations are able to take on a particular type of matter. Or they may not have the time to tell a story over and over again to various lawyers, seeking the one who is a good fit. Even if a warm referral is made, it is difficult to be certain that representation resulted from the referral, and performing the follow-up to confirm representation and track the status of a matter can be difficult for organizations or lawyers dealing with dozens of potential clients in a short time.


The Solution - JusticeReferrals.org

JusticeReferrals.org uses technology to facilitate and simplify warm referrals in Maryland, providing a platform for legal services non-profits and private attorneys to tell a client's story to the exact right audience every time.  It is a password-protected membership website created by Civil Justice that allows Maryland legal service providers and private attorneys to create profiles detailing the legal fields and jurisdictions in which they practice.  Members can post the details of a legal matter, including uploading relevant documents, and JusticeReferrals.org then automatically determines which attorneys and organizations are a potential match and sends notifications.  The attorney or legal services organization can then view the details of the matter and indicate whether they can try to help the client.  JusticeReferrals.org manages the referral process at every step, from determining the initial pool of potential matches to confirming representation.  

JusticeReferrals.org is a rare win-win-win – clients win because their stories are told for them to the right attorneys without requiring hours of phone calls, increasing the speed and likelihood of finding representation; the attorneys win because they can quickly review the details of a matter to decide if they can help, rather than spending so much time on intake with a cold-caller potential client; and the referring members can make a superior warm referral that maximizes the client’s chance of finding legal representation on an efficient basis while easily tracking the success of the referral.  

The preliminary results from the limited launch of JusticeReferrals.org in August of 2017 for consumer cases have been impressive, with an average of five attorneys viewing the details of each of the over 100 matters posted thus far.  The attorneys, clients and referral sources all praise the ease of use of JusticeReferrals.org.  We’ve worked out all of the technical issues with the website, and now with support we can scale it up by doing outreach to legal services providers to show them how to use the system and expand the practice areas beyond consumer law to other areas of need such as immigration and workers’ rights.

Innovating Based on Past Success

JusticeReferrals.org was built using lessons learned from Civil Justice’s experience making warm referrals as part of our Economic Justice Program, which is focused on those businesses that prey upon the most vulnerable among us.  For example, some unscrupulous used car dealers exploit people who are desperate for a vehicle that they need to get to work, selling terrible cars under false pretexts, refusing to honor warranties, repossessing cars illegally, and suing their former customers and seeking fees to which they are not entitled.  This often leaves the former customer without critical transportation, leading to job loss, economic instability, and disillusionment, all while facing a lawsuit by the dealership.  Most attorneys would view this as a hopeless case, especially since the client is unlikely to have money to pay the attorney.  

Civil Justice's Economic Justice Program fights back against these types of businesses by connecting their victims with a group of innovative lawyers who can provide representation in such circumstances using "fee shifting" statutes - statutes that allow a lawyer to represent a client without charging the client any money, and instead collecting their fee from the business that violated the law.  Thus, the lawyers are often able to turn things around on the businesses that are suing their former customers, defeating the lawsuits by the business and then suing the business for damages.  Civil Justice's Economic Justice Program shows that connecting the right client with the right lawyer can have tremendous results:

JusticeReferrals.org makes the kind of great results that we have had with our Economic Justice Program possible on a much larger scale, creating a platform where other legal service providers and Maryland attorneys can work together to tell clients’ stories and find the right lawyers to provide representation in the same way that we have been able to do for our Economic Justice Project.  To read in detail how JusticeReferrals.org works, click here.  To make a donation to support this important project, please click here.