On Friday, the White House announced a new partnership with the ABA designed to help workers whose complaints aren’t resolved by the U.S. Department of Labor find a lawyer through an ABA-approved lawyer referral service.  

According to the ABA Journal article explaining the program

[B]eginning on Dec. 13, workers with unresolved complaints under the Fair Labor Standards Act or the Family Medical Leave Act will be told of another option. They will get a letter explaining their rights and offering a toll-free number that can link them to ABA-approved lawyer referral programs in their geographic area.

Referral programs that are ABA-approved comply with the association’s model ethics rules. They require consumer safeguards such as verification of bar membership, proof of malpractice insurance or financial responsibility, and screening to make sure lawyers have sufficient experience in the subject matter. And clients can’t be charged any additional money for participating in the service.

ABA President Stephen N. Zack calls the project “a win-win for everyone.”

“As lawyers, it’s at the core of our beliefs that people with serious legal needs should be able to readily find good representation,” Zack says in a statement forwarded to the ABA Journal. “The Department of Labor is setting up a creative, compassionate method for helping some of those who come to them with likely claims under the Federal Labor Standards Act or Family and Medical Leave Act. Providing a connection to a lawyer who’s already undergone vetting is a terrific idea that will help people in need. We’re pleased that the ABA’s Legal Referral project is the administration’s lead partner in this."

This seems to be a win-win type partnership not only for the USDOL and the ABA, but also a win for employers and employees alike.  Any employer that has dealt with a pro se litigant (i.e. someone representing his or her self) can understand how expensive it is to litigate such cases. Having a competent and qualified counsel to represent individuals should, in the long run, help employers solve any thorny issues that arise. 

And for employees, it provides another outlet to allow them to find counsel to take cases that might otherwise be left unresolved. 

Kudos to the ABA for giving its members a source of business and also providing a service as well. I’m looking forward to hearing more details about this program and how it will be implemented in states like Connecticut where many lawyer referral programs are run through the local bar associations.