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Legal How-To: Research a Lawyer's Reputation

Sometimes, whether you win or lose your legal battle will depend just as much on the attorney you hire as the law and the facts of your case. That's why choosing the right lawyer is so important. 

Most people will tell you to hire an attorney with a great reputation. But how do you research a lawyer's reputation? Two main sources: the state bar and word of mouth. 

Behind Bars

In order to practice law, an attorney must be licensed in the state. This licensing is done through state bar associations. These associations will allow you to confirm whether a lawyer is licensed in your state, and most of them will allow you to research any attorney discipline via their websites.

Every state bar has a disciplinary organization that monitor attorneys and investigates client complaints. If the organization determines the attorney has violated any ethical rules, it will discipline the attorney as appropriate. Attorneys could be disciplined for a variety reasons ranging from a failure to pay their annual bar dues to misappropriating client funds. Your potential attorney's disciplinary record should be your first stop when research her reputation.

Street Cred

Just because your lawyer has a clean disciplinary history doesn't necessarily mean she is the best choice for your case. Beyond staying out of trouble, a good attorney needs to secure the best outcome for her clients. As much as possible, ask friends, family, or colleagues for lawyer recommendations based on people they trust or have worked with in the past.

If you're having trouble getting a personal recommendation, websites like Super Lawyers list the best attorneys by practice area, location, and reputation. Super Lawyers created a comprehensive listing of attorneys based on peer nominations and independent research into their experience, awards, and history of verdicts and settlements. (Disclosure: Both FindLaw and Super Lawyers are a part of Thomson Reuters.)

Finding the perfect lawyer can feel like a daunting task. You can also use FindLaw's lawyer directory to find an attorney near you.

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