IN SAN DIEGO, the bar association financed its activities largely from fees generated by its lawyer referral service, but now that individual lawyers are advertising cut rates for common legal chores, people have stopped calling the bar association.
The same unexpected fallout from the Supreme Court decision 20 months ago allowing lawyer advertising has been seen in other parts of the country, the American Bar Association's advertising commission reported.
In Dallas, for instance, there has been a 20 percent decline in calls to the bar association's lawyer referral service between November 1977 and November 1978. The same is true for Los Angeles, where the ABA commission reported that the increase in individual lawyer advertising threatens the lawyer referal service, and in parts of Michigan, where referrals dropped by 1,000 in a year.
This decline worries many lawyers who -- Supreme Court notwithstanding -- believe that allowing individual lawyers to advertise demeans the profession, and that instead bar associations should sponsor institutional advertising for lawyer referal services.
The trouble is, these services traditionally benefit the bar association and lawyers more than the public, who get no real service just the name of the next lawyer on the list who will charge for his advice. It is akin to Russian Roulette, since the caller is just as likely to get a bad lawyer as a good lawyer, someone who knows nothing about the problem that is bothering him or someone who is expert in that branch of the law.
The lawyers, on the other hand, get new clients and the bar association gets referral fees that is can use for such things as maintaining its entire operation or putting up a new building for itself. Some bar associations even get a percentage of contingency fees generated by its referrals -- $15,000 in one reported instance.
In fact, this fee-generating aspect of bar association activities has awakened the interest of the Internal Revenue Service, which is conducting an investigation to see if some bar groups should pay taxes on lawyer referral service income that benefits the bar instead of the public.
All of this makes the experience of the D.C. Bar's lawyer referral service since September even more instructive.
While lawyer referral services across the country are losing customers, the D.C. Bar's phones are ringing off the hook. The bar has been averaging 1,000 calls a month until January, traditionally a busy period for lawyers as people get to legal problems postponed over the Christmas season, when the number jumped to 1,300.
One reason the D.C. Bar's referral service works is its emphasis on public service. Unlike most lawyer referral services, only one in four callers is actually sent to a lawyer. The rest either get help from the service's trained staff or are sent to some other agency.
This, of course, cuts down on the legal fees generated by the lawyer referral service -- hurting the lawyers but helping the public.
Moreover, a caller referred to a lawyer gets a complete rundown on him -- what his education is, how much experience he has and how much he charges. This takes the Russian Roulette out of lawyer referral.
"Only about a dozen other lawyers in the area do that -- those that advertise in The Washington Post." said Paul V. Carlin, director of the lawyer referral service.
Every American criminal attorney and police officer knows Miranda. That's the case that says accused criminals have to be told of their right to have a lawyer and remain silent. Now the Germans are going to learn what Miranda means.
Washington attorney Judah Best, defending an East German accused by a special U.S. court set up in West Berlin of hijacking a Polish airliner, wants all statements made by his clients to German prosecutors and American Air Force investigators suppressed because the East German was not told of his Miranda rights.
As expected, Best is also calling for the full protection of the U.S. Constitution for his client -- including trial by jury, though it is unclear how U.S. authoritities should go about picking an impartial jury in Berlin.
R. Keith Stroup, former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has started a law firm with Theodore J. Jacobs, formerly connected with the President's Task Force for Product Safety, and lawyers in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and San Antonio.
Stroup and the out-of-town lawyers will concentrate on defending people accused of violating drugs laws -- "a never ending procession of people who need help," said Stroup, who has been accused of violating a few drug laws himself -- while Jacobs will build up a traditional administrative-lobbying Washington law practice.
Stroup represents the trade association of firms that make drug paraphernalia such as pipes and papers and said he is working on a suit for NORML to stop the government from using military satellites to spy on drug smugglers. "We're going to be a political firm," he said.
Former Bobby Kennedy legislative aide Peter Edelman has gone into practice with the Washington office of the Milwaukee firm of Foley, Lardner, Hollabaugh & Jacobs. He had been director for 3 1/2 years of the New York State Division for Youth and will specialize in cases involving state and local governments, higher education and health care -- "the areas I know best."
Short Takes: Washington attorney Arthur W. Leibold Jr. was elected treasurer of the American Bar Association... John McElroy Atkisson, former counsel to the House subcommittee on oversight, has joined White, Fine & Verville... Anita Johnson has left the Environmental Defense Fund to work for the Justice Department in the consumer section of the antitrust division... Gus B. Bauman has become litigation counsel for the National Association of Home Builders. He had been with the Maryland-National Capital Planning Commission.