You may have stumbled across this article because you have no idea where to turn to find the best lawyer for your case. It seems that every attorney's website proclaims that THEY'RE the firm with the best track record and best results. Did you expect their website to say anything else? I've written before on strategies to choose your lawyer, which is a little different than starting the process to initially vet your lawyer... after all, before you talk to your potential attorney how do you research them to make sure they're even worth your time?
In this article we've listed, in no particular order of importance, the top ways to thoroughly research your lawyer before you pick up the phone, and more importantly their relevance to your decision making process.
It's important that you not put too much weight on any one website over another, but look for reliable, consistent and credible information.
Martindale-Hubbell - This is the oldest directory and peer review rating system in the U.S. Most lawyers know about it, but most people looking for an attorney for the first time have never heard of it. Although many lawyers now consider Martindale-Hubbell out dated and "passé", it still has arguably one of the best methods for attorneys to rate other attorneys (also referred to as "peer reviews"): Highest - "AV Preeminent", Middle - "Distinguished", Lowest - "Notable". (Here's their methodology). It's important to note that most attorneys are not rated at all, so technically a non-rated attorney could potentially be a much better lawyer than even the highest rated attorneys. A lawyer must request or be nominated to participate, and some simply don't like the outcome. To add a bit to the confusion, some incredible attorneys choose to opt out of the process altogether. This could easily be the topic of a entirely separate blog.
Yelp - This one is a bit obvious to some, but not to others. Most people think of Yelp to find a great restaurant, but not necessarily an awesome lawyer. If you look through the reviews you can get a good sense of how an attorney interacts with their clients. Most people who've hired an attorney and had a bad experience have no problem tossing their attorney-client privilege by publicly complaining about it. However, take these with a grain of salt. When a case involves someone's freedom, family or money people can become vindictive if the result is less than perfect - even when their lawyer did everything possible to get them an excellent result. Not to mention that anyone can write a Yelp review, and the person writing the review might have been the defendant in a case pursued by the plaintiff's attorney they're rating - just to be spiteful and harm their practice.
Avvo - Avvo is a more popular directory and rating system among lawyers. It's very easy for a lawyer to publicly rate another lawyer, and for clients to post reviews. However, their interface is very long to scroll through and, it's our opinion that their peer review system is incredibly easy to game and manipulate. For instance there are some lawyers that have hundreds of reviews and endorsements from other attorneys... hundreds. Do you think lawyers like each other that much? If you look closely and long enough, you'll find that a pattern emerges and some attorneys have "traded" positive peer endorsements to help boost their individual rating, (read one lawyer's excellent rant here). So while we think their rating system is less than credible, it makes up a "spoke of the wheel" in finding a lawyer to talk to.
California Bar Profile - Every attorney must maintain a public profile with their official name, address and telephone number. Also, their profile will disclose if they were ever disciplined for misconduct, suspended or disbarred. Although this won't give you any ratings or reviews, you can at least see if they've ever had trouble with the state Bar.
Google - Duuuh. Seriously, if you do a name search and add the words "complaint", "review" or "rating" you can find almost anything positive or negative a person has had to say about a lawyer. That search would look something like "attorney John Q. Sample complaints" and brew a pot of coffee.
The thing to keep in mind here is that there are multiple ways for you to validate an attorney and you shouldn't rely on just one. That's one of the reasons we developed InlandEmpireLawyers.com, an attorney directory for San Bernardino and Riverside counties. We decided early on to link directly to all of these resources directly within an attorney's profile. This makes your process much more efficient because you can quickly access each of these websites for a local attorney without having to take the time to do the legwork on each website.
If you're an attorney what are your thoughts? Is there a better way than this to research a lawyer?
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