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How We Can Help You

San Mateo County Bar Association provides four major programs designed to assist our community.

Private Defender Program 

San Mateo County does not have a traditional Public Defender’s Office.  Since 1968, the County of San Mateo has contracted with the San Mateo County Bar Association to provide indigent criminal defense.  Case assignments are made by the Program’s staff on the basis of the nature, seriousness, and complexity of the charge, matching the skill and experience of the individual lawyers to the client and his or her case.  The Program is also appointed in dependency and delinquency matters in Juvenile Court as well as mental health and civil matters, where the indigent is entitled to appointed counsel.  The Private Defender Program assigns cases from a panel of approximately 100 attorneys, all of whom are in private practice.  From the funds obtained under the contract with San Mateo County, the Bar Association pays the Private Defender Panel attorneys according to a fee schedule developed by the Administrator and the Private Defender Committee and approved by the San Mateo County Bar Association Board of Directors.   This unique program delivers high quality legal services to clients otherwise unable to hire counsel and it does so at substantial savings to the taxpayers of San Mateo County.  The San Mateo County Bar Association has earned national acclaim and local respect for its Private Defender Program.   

Lawyer Referral Service 

The San Mateo County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) is a State Bar of California certified program (Certificate No. 0039).  For a nominal fee, the Service will provide callers with the name of an attorney who will provide a 30 minute interview.  The interview is an opportunity for the prospective client to explain the general nature of the legal problem and for the attorney to explain his or her fee structure and to determine if the case is one he or she wishes to pursue.  The attorneys on our Service are in good standing with the State Bar of California and are required to carry malpractice insurance. Each year LRS makes approximately 3,000 referrals to more than 150 attorneys.   

Fee Arbitration Program

The San Mateo County Bar Association Fee Arbitration Program allows clients and lawyers to settle fee disputes without litigation. Clients have the right to have a neutral party-"an arbitrator"- hear fee disputes with their attorneys. The arbitrator determines whether the fees and costs charged by the attorney are reasonable for the services provided.  The Fee Arbitration Program provides an opportunity to have a volunteer arbitrator(s) resolve attorney fee and cost disputes between clients and attorneys through an informal, low-cost alternative to the court system.  Fee arbitration is mandated by California Business & Professions Code §§6200-6206.   

Speakers Bureau

The San Mateo County Bar Association Speakers Bureau is a free service. All volunteer speakers are attorneys and members in good standing with the San Mateo County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. Participating attorneys can visit businesses, schools, private or professional organizations, civic groups, and any number of other groups to present on a topic and encourage lively, genuine discussion.

Click on the Speakers Bureau link above to learn more.

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