Court Records Blog

Court Records Access

Court Records Blog header image 2

Finding the Right Attorney, Part 2 – How to be a Savvy Legal Consumer With Online Resources

August 19th, 2013 · No Comments

Last month’s blog article “How do you find the right attorney for your legal issue, your area, and your budget” (July 18, 2013) promoted the idea of using lawyer referral services offered by state and local Bar Associations. The ubiquity of the programs (more than 300 nationally) and the mission of matching legal consumers with unbiased, qualified referrals based upon specific legal needs is endorsed and governed by the American Bar Association. The referral services include pre-screening assistance, detailed educational and professional profiles, and assisted selection of appropriate counsel.
Whether you utilize a referral program or decide to find an attorney yourself, how do you navigate through the sea of online ads, legal directories and peer review sites to make your selection? There are multiple sources to confirm the background of a recommended attorney, or seek feedback about a prospective one.
Let’s look at the type of online resources available, starting with legal directories. There are nearly as many directory websites as lawyers, it seems! The most popular sites based upon recent ranking are Avvo.com, Findlaw.com, Justia.com, Lawyers.com, Martindale.com, and Nolo.com. These sites provide virtual snapshots of a lawyer’s background and experience, and can draw from a variety of sources, including academic, bar association, employer, peer, and client data, as well as news and public records information.
It is not the intention of this article to endorse a particular directory, but to advise the legal consumer that there are differences in the type of data and collection processes offered. Compare these and other sites for profile content, rating system (if available), peer and/or client feedback, member or consumer fees, and other criteria important to you (i.e., ease-of-use, geographic coverage).
Regarding profile content, some directories include all licensed attorneys, while others include only selected, nominated, or paying members. Avvo.com and Martindale.com provide professional rating systems, but their ratings are based upon different factors (years of practice, professional achievements, community recognition, disciplinary history, etc.). They also weight these factors differently; it is important to conduct your own “due diligence” by reviewing how these sites collect, compile, and rank their data.
Peer endorsements provided in legal directories can be compelling if supported by other professional accomplishments, particularly if they represent a diverse sampling of the legal community. Again, consult the website to determine how these endorsements are solicited and selected for inclusion, and what weight they carry (and if there is a limit to the number of peer recommendations displayed).
Similarly, client feedback can be very valuable. How balanced are the reviews in terms of positive and negative representation? Do the reviews appear “cherry-picked” or heavily edited? Does the feedback appear in the profile, or does it stand alone on the site? If the website reveals its editorial process for client reviews, and the site includes a rating system, do those reviews impact the allover score of the lawyer?
For fee-based legal directories, who pays? Many websites offer client “lead generation” services in exchange for a fee paid by member attorneys. There are hierarchies of listings as well on some sites; different rates apply for “priority” placement to attract prospective legal clients. Do not assume a more robust or prominent profile was randomly placed!  It was likely paid for. There are, however, some sites that offer free listings of all licensed attorneys in a particular state or region.
In addition to directories, be sure to consult attorney and firm websites and blogs. Don’t discount a sole practitioner or small firm because their websites are not dazzling; content is more important than optics. There are many publications (hardcopy as well as online) that can be instructive; sources like Super Lawyers (which possesses a patented lawyer selection process!), state and national Law Journals, Bar Association monthlies, etc., all rank attorneys, typically by practice area, on an annual basis. Area news providers, including papers, city magazines, business, industry and topical journals frequently profile local legal talent.
And, back to my beloved state Bar Associations! Your local Bar Association can confirm an attorney’s eligibility to practice in that jurisdiction, educational background (including advanced legal degrees), and any disciplinary history, pending sanctions and/or suspensions. You can also request the names of members of the Bar’s practice area groups and authors of  its CLE (Continuing Legal Education) publications to find recognized local experts on specific legal topics.
This article barely scratches the surface of utilizing the almost limitless resources available when seeking legal counsel. Surf the web, read the blogs, peruse the ads, study the profiles. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips!
For a list of lawyer referral services in your area to launch an attorney search, go to CourtReference.com and choose your state and county. Then select the category “Legal Aid and Lawyer Referral” to review available directories and referral services.

MaryF

Tags: Free Legal Help · Uncategorized

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment