Where to Check Attorney Credentials

where to check attorney credentials

Before hiring a lawyer in New York State, it is a good idea to conduct a background check on them. All attorneys must first be licensed by the courts before you can check their registration status on the Unified Court System website.

Many bar associations provide directories of lawyers organized by legal specialty and some even allow you to check disciplinary records.

State Bar Association

The State Bar Association is a legal body that oversees the practice of law in a particular state. Membership may be mandatory for lawyers seeking to practice in that particular jurisdiction; additionally, referral services offered through this legal organization assist members of the public find attorneys specializing in specific areas of the law; they often also maintain up-to-date registration and discipline information about its members.

Some state bars, like California’s, allow users to search for lawyers by name and bar number. This tool will reveal whether or not an attorney is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction as well as any professional misconduct that has been reported to the State Bar Association.

Other state bar associations, like the New York State Bar Association, offer more specialized directories to help you locate an attorney with experience in your legal matter. In addition, The People’s Law School runs free seminars on topics of interest to members of the public. You can view its seminar schedule on the NYSBA website. Furthermore, NYSBA also provides Lawyer Referral and Information Service that charges a small fee for its assistance when finding attorneys.

State Regulatory Agency

Each state regulates the practice of law within its jurisdiction to maintain the integrity and protect consumers of legal services. Most states utilize bar association-managed licensing or regulatory agencies for this task; 44 of these states allow the public to search online for an individual lawyer’s licensure status and disciplinary history.

Not only should you ensure a lawyer holds a valid license to practice law, but you should also determine their experience in your specific field of law – for instance a patent attorney would likely not be the ideal choice to defend you against libel charges.

Many attorneys, even great ones, find themselves in trouble with the law at some point during their careers. Examining their disciplinary records will give a more accurate reflection of the quality of work they perform for clients.

Every state has a lawyer licensing agency, typically known as its respective “Board of Bar Overseers.” The American Bar Association maintains a website to help guide people towards each regulator in each state; here is their compilation of State Lawyer Licensing Databases which should help quickly access an attorney in good standing in your jurisdiction or provide you with details if he/she has been disciplined or barred from practicing law.

Lawyer Referral Services

Many state and local bar associations provide lawyer referral services that connect people with attorneys specializing in a particular field of law. Such services may also be offered by non-profit organizations and advocacy groups. Some certified services may impose standards requiring participating attorneys to meet certain levels of experience or maintain legal malpractice insurance.

Referral services offer free public service; individuals can call them and discuss their case with an agent who will search through a list of attorneys to find one who specializes in that type of matter. However, these aren’t necessarily the best method for finding legal assistance as these services only have limited information about each lawyer and can’t ensure one will take on your matter or that he or she will be suitable.

At times, lawyer referral services pay non-attorneys to refer prospective client leads for them – an arrangement which raises ethical concerns as it can create conflicts of interest between themselves and those referred to them. While state bars don’t explicitly permit such arrangements, some do permit it provided the service limits its activities and maintains safeguards to ensure there’s no preferential treatment of attorneys participating in it.

Public Records

Attorneys must pass a rigorous bar exam, be of good character, and obtain ongoing CLE credits in order to practice law in any given jurisdiction. Each state Supreme Court sets rules, administers exams, vets candidates’ character and fitness, admits them into the bar, licenses them to practice law within its borders. It serves as an important quality control mechanism that protects both public safety and integrity in legal profession. It is critical that you verify if your attorney is licensed, in good standing, and practicing within their local area if your case requires this kind of work.

Many states provide online databases where members of the public can search for attorney license information, such as whether or not he or she is practicing legally in that jurisdiction. These databases can be found from various sources such as bar associations or private companies.

Some lawyers also maintain websites showcasing their credentials, accolades, publications, testimonials, and other pertinent details about their practice. It may be worth performing a quick Internet search to see what information comes up; just remember to read reviews with caution as people tend to overstate the positive aspects. Yelp and Avvo can provide insight into a lawyer’s reputation by reading feedback left by past customers on these platforms.