Florida bar says no to for-profit referral services not owned by bar members
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a state bar proposal that would have allowed lawyers to take referrals from for-profit agencies.
According to the Daily Business Review, the state bar asked the court to let attorneys join referral agencies not owned by bar members that also handle referrals for services like health care. Besides rejecting that proposal, the court directed the bar to amend Rule 4-7.22, which addresses lawyer referral services.
The state has restricted attorney referrals from for-profit services since 1986, the opinion (PDF) notes. In 2011, the state bar created a committee to examine the services because of a “recent and dramatic” growth in the businesses. The group found that greater regulation of attorneys who participated in the services was needed to serve public interest.
“While the action we take today may be viewed by some as severe, we conclude it is absolutely necessary to protect the public from referral services that improperly utilize lawyers to direct clients to undesired, unnecessary, or even harmful treatment or services,” the opinion states. “Our action today will also prevent conflicts of interest, such as where a lawyer feels compelled or pressured to refer a client to another business operated or controlled by the owner of the referral service so that the lawyer may continue to receive referrals from that service.”
Private referral services have often gone unnoticed in Florida since 1987, the Daily Business Review reports. Florida has a no-fault insurance law, and these services’ advertising has increased amid growing competition for personal-injury cases, the article notes.