Lawyers can seem "all that" during a consultation, but potential clients may want to do a little extra research before pulling the trigger on hiring them.
Just a quick trip over to the lawyer's website or state bar profile can reveal information that he or she may not have disclosed. In addition, ranking-and-review websites like Yelp provide oodles of sensitive information on attorneys from past clients.
So if you're curious, use these five quick ways to research whether your lawyer is legit:
1. State Bar Profile.
Every lawyer who is licensed to practice law in your home state must be listed in your state bar association's directory. Remember, just because someone uses "Esq." in his or her letterhead doesn't necessarily mean that person is licensed to practice. Each licensed attorney should appear on your home state's bar association website (here's California's), and you can find them using a state bar number or first and last name. The profile will include basic contact information, whether the attorney can actively practice law, and any ethical trouble he or she may have gotten into.
2. Google / Search Engines.
You can Google just about anything whenever you have a question, so why not look up your attorney? Internet search engines should reveal any news stories, publications, or websites associated with your attorney, but it may take some digging around to find something useful.
Google should also bring up your prospective attorney's Yelp profile. It should be more informative than local courthouse Yelp reviews, but try to take the reviews with a grain of salt.
4. The Attorney's Own Website.
You can find accolades, publications, testimonials, and even whether an attorney offers free consultations by looking at his or her website. While a poorly designed site might not mean that attorney isn't legit, but it's not a great sign either.
5. Third-Party Rating Groups.
While your state's bar association can only provide limited information on an attorney's performance and Yelp reviews are unverifiable and scattershot, there are third-party groups that will recognize when a lawyer is great. One notable choice is Super Lawyers, a rating service which has a patented selection process for recognizing outstanding lawyers.
You can likely execute searches for these five things within 10 to 15 minutes, but it may save you months of wondering whether your attorney is really worth the money.
Disclosure: FindLaw.com and Super Lawyers are owned by the same company.