|Community Certified Lawyer Referral Program|
Questions and Answers
What is the Community Certified Lawyer Referral Service?
The Community Certified Lawyer Referral Service is a legal referral service, which promotes the services of lawyers, law firms and others offering legal related services, based on voluntary compliance to minimum standards of ethics and business practices which have been established by the citizens of the community. Lawyers who are part of the referral program will be expected to adhere to standards, which are generally more detailed, and in some cases more restrictive, than those of the law society. These standards have been developed by citizens in the community, specifically to provide a higher level of accountability as well as a higher level of protection for children and families in the community, especially in the area of family law.
What is the objective of the service?
The objective of the lawyer referral service is to:
Ensure that all families in the community receive the quality of service by those in the legal profession that meets or exceeds the minimum levels of professionalism and accountability, which the citizens expect in their community.
Ensure that families are treated with respect and that the delivery of legal services is truly served in accountable and unbiased process with the best interests of children and their families being considered at all times.
Help restore the public’s respect and confidence in the legal profession, much of which has been lost due the questionable practices of some.
Help ensure that legal professionals are respected in their communities for their wisdom and honesty and that lawyers and the community work together to ensure that the justice system serves both the needs of families and the needs of society.
Help reduce needless litigation in that has disrupted the lives of so many children and their families.
Provide an array of health and legal support services to support those lawyers who are listed with the service. A number of services will also be available to clients of those lawyers who are listed with the service. Such services will include mediators, specialized legal service professionals, family coordinators, as well as other health care service providers.
To be a factor that will promote positive change to the legal system so that citizens can have a system of justice that all can be proud of.
Who developed the program?
The program was developed by the National Association for Public and Private Accountability (N.A.P.P.A.), a non profit community based organization which supports initiatives that promote higher standards of accountability and ethics, both publicly and privately. The National Chairman of N.A.P.P.A. is the Reverend Dorian A. Baxter, who is well known in several countries and is respected by many for his dedication to the principles of equality, justice and accountability.
Who administers the program?
The program is administered in each community or region by local group of citizens from the community who form an organization called a “Family Justice Review Committee”. Each committee will be comprised of local citizens of good standing in the community who take an interest in matters affecting justice, fairness, equality and accountability in their community. Members of the committee contribute their efforts in accordance to the founding principals and defined procedures, which govern the activities of the committee and its members. A fully functional committee will have a case review board consisting of a minimum of 12 members from the community who are supported by a general membership of citizens from the community. The case review board will be made up of both men and women and will contain representatives from various visible ethnic groups in the community. Membership in the committee is open to all members of the public.
The case review board, with the support of the general membership will help develop community standards relating to these issues and provides input to various other groups or organizations to ensure that the voice of the community in respect to justice for its fellow citizens is heard and respected.
Why should lawyers belong?
Lawyers who participate in the program quite simply are saying to the people in their community that they believe that the best interests of children, parents and extended families are more important than the process of law and that the roles of lawyers and the courts should be to resolve disputes within the principles of the law, not to foster conflict through manipulation of the laws.
As a lawyer who participates in return for showing your support for these basic concepts and principles, the community will support you in a number of ways.
Who can be a listed on the referral list?
All members of the legal profession who are in good standing with the law society of the province in which they practice law are welcome to have their name registered with the program. All lawyers who wish to have their names recommended by the service must follow the published guidelines that have been developed by the local Family Justice Review Committee.
Who administers the Family Justice Review Committee Program?
The Family Justice Review Committee Program is a project of the National Association for Public and Private Accountability (N.A.P.P.A.), headed by the Reverend Dorian A. Baxter. Each justice committee operates independently from committees in other communities and each committee maintains its own local board of directors. N.A.P.P.A. serves as the administrator to help the various local committees to share information and to maintain standardized procedures. N.A.P.P.A. will co-ordinate meetings on a regional, provincial and national basis, as groups expand into various communities.
The program was developed in response to a growing number of individuals and families experiencing difficulty with the court system and their demands to make the court system more friendly, affordable and accountable to families.
How does the program promote compliance of lawyers?
The program is intended to foster voluntary compliance by promoting only those lawyers in the community who abide by the guidelines established by the program. The program will have an advertising campaign in the community, which will assist citizens in the community to know who the lawyers are that are on the referral list.
Volunteers from the program will pass out information to people at courthouses and other public locations requesting citizens in the community to submit any complaint that they may have about any legal professional in their community. Information and complaints about all legal professionals in each community will be kept in a computerized database which will be linked with groups in other communities as part of the program.
What are the benefits of participating?
Being listed with the Community Certified Legal Referral Services offers a number of advantages to those in the legal profession. Some of these advantages are:
All lawyers in the program will have access to an array of other health care and legal professionals as well as trained citizens from the community to assisting your client in legal matters. Support persons such as court observers, court reporters, civil litigation specialists can be brought in to assist your client.
Where warranted, the full weight of the local Justice Review Committee will be brought to bear to assist your client should you or your client encounter questionable or unethical practices being used by another lawyer or heath care professional. Volunteer members of the community will review matters and to make recommendations from the community. The Justice review committee will send in people to observe matters before the courts and other lawyers to ensure that those responsible for the carriage of justice are aware that the community is watching.
The Referral Service will be promoting the names of those lawyers who participate on the list in some of the following ways:
What happens if a complaint is made against a lawyer who is a member of the program?
Should a complaint be made against a lawyer member of the service, the complaint will be reviewed by members of the Justice Committee. Should it be found that a complaint has no basis or should an honest mistake or oversight be made by the lawyer, then no action will be taken against the lawyer. Recommendations may be made to help ensure that there will be no repeat of the same complaint.
However, should it be found that a lawyer has intentionally acted in bad faith or acted outside of the guidelines established by the community, then that lawyer will be removed from the service.
In all cases the lawyer and the client will be able to have their dispute heard before a group of citizens from the community in an open and accountable process. Lawyers who have had their names removed from the service will be given the opportunity to be reinstated should the committee feel that the corrective measures have been taken.
How are lawyers monitored by the referral service?
Should validated complaints from the public warrant the removal of a particular lawyer from the serviced, then the lawyer may be removed either on a temporary or permanent basis. Lawyers who have a history of complaints, and where it it is the opinion of members of the committee that the lawyer is unable or unwilling to abide by the guidelines will be removed from the list.
Information and complaints are gathered through a number of sources which include:
All information gathered from the public will be kept in a confidential database for each community or region. Members of the Justice Review Committee will review information gathered in the database at times when a complaint has been issued against a lawyer or when a hearing is to be held about having a lawyer removed from the service.
What activities could get a lawyer removed from the list?
At the current time lawyers are expected to give their support to general principles and concepts that support the rights of children and fairness in family law.
A guidebook for participants of the service is currently being developed by N.A.P.P.A. in conjunction with legal and health care professionals and will be contained in the guidebook “Community Guidelines of Professional Conduct for Lawyers.” The guidebook is expected to be released sometime early in the year 2000.
All that legal professionals have to do to be recommended by the service is to treat families with dignity with respect, and to make fairness, justice and equality the principles they practice in the course of conducting business. Lawyers who, in the opinion of the community, carry on their business using questionable and unethical methods will lose their certification by the community. Some of the activities that would exclude a lawyer from being recommended by the referral service would include the following: