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Helping find your perfect match

News

Cite as: March 2011 85(3) LIJ, p.32

For 21 years, the LIV Legal Referral Service has helped take the confusion out of trying to find the right lawyer.

Finding a lawyer can be as intimidating as going on a blind date.

Potential clients, like would-be lovers, worry if their needs will be met, their problems considered trivial, or if the relationship will end up costing them more than it’s worth.At the same time, many lawyers have limited time and money to spend wooing new business.

For 21 years, the LIV has been playing legal cupid through its introduction service that has helped match more than half a million Victorians with law firms.

Since its launch in 1990, when it was known as Dial-A-Law, the LIV’s Legal Referral Service has grown to become a phone and online service that last year referred 27,500 people to 600 registered firms.

The referral service’s network of members ranges from specialist boutique firms to general practices. They are located throughout the state, from the CBD to the suburbs and regional Victoria.

Sixty per cent are sole practitioners, 34 per cent are firms with between two and five partners, and 6 per cent are firms with six or more partners.

People seeking legal assistance can use the service to search for a lawyer by area of law (with firms able to nominate up to 35 referral areas), locality and preferred language.

The LIV then provides the contact details of three firms matching the search criteria, along with a referral letter that entitles the user to a free 30-minute initial interview with their chosen match.

Victoria Legal Aid directs some users to the service, while others are searching for a firm with knowledge of international laws or bilingual lawyers.

Many are simply stumped by the prospect of seeking legal help by sifting through the overwhelming list of lawyers advertising online or in the telephone directory.

An average of 50 solicitor-to-solicitor referrals are also provided by the service each month.

Thank-you cards, letters and calls to the LIV suggest a valuable conversion rate of callers to clients.

Long-time member Geoff Kliger, of Kliger Partners, said about half the people referred to his firm had become clients. All of them were unlikely to have contacted the firm without the referral service.

Mr Kliger strongly recommended the service, which he said “cost peanuts” compared to other forms of advertising and marketing.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Referrals are the best way to get clients and all we have to do is tell the [LIV] what we do and our areas of expertise and they refer clients.”

Mr Kliger, a referral service member since 2001, said the majority of referrals to his firm involved property law matters.

“It can be a grab bag of matters, sometimes backyard garden-fence type matters, sometimes pro bono work and sometimes a matter of real substance, good matters from our point of view,” he said.

The service mostly refers individuals or small businesses searching for help with litigation, family, employment and property law.

LIV president Caroline Counsel praised the service, as it enters its 21st year in 2011, as an excellent networking tool.

“The referral service provides an invaluable service to our members as it enables the smooth and easy referral of clients and therefore is an ideal opportunity for members to maximise their connections with the LIV,” she said.

The service was based on a Canadian system and originally set up as an information and referral service, with callers able to listen to recordings on popular law topics.

As legal information became easily and freely available on the internet, including the LIV website, the recordings were scrapped.

But despite the digital age, the phone referral service remains more popular than the online search facility. More than 80 per cent of users prefer to talk to someone about their query.

The LIV has also teamed up with Small Business Victoria to provide members’ details to a shared “Find an Adviser” directory that allows small business owners to search for professionals, including lawyers, accountants and business advisers.

The referral service’s annual registration fee is based on practice size and starts at $269 for a sole practitioner.

For more information about the LIV Legal Referral Service, see www.liv.asn.au/Referral or ph 9607 9550 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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