In Texas we have a State Bar Board of Legal Specialization that certifies attorneys in different areas (criminal, family, etc.), and attorneys who aren’t board certified must include “not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization” in their advertising. However, not being Board Certified doesn’t necessarily make for a bad lawyer. My Dad is a great trial lawyer with 30 years of experience, but has never bothered to become Board Certified in anything because he doesn’t need to advertise.
Its not exactly a rating system, but we also have a lawyer referral services. Larger cities like Houston and Dallas have referral services sponsored by their local bar associations, and smaller towns or rural areas are serviced by the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Information Service, or LRIS. Your state may have something similar; you might call your state or local bar association and see if they can at least point you in the right direction.
Ask around a lot as well. Good old word of mouth is still one of the better referral systems.
Lawyer referral services are not a very good indicator of an attorney’s ability. Many such services (perhaps all of them, for all I know) are open to any attorney who’s licensed to practice in their region; anyone with a law license and a pulse can sign up. The fact that a referral service gives you an attorney’s name and number does not constitute a recommendation by the service that the attorney is talented.
For an idea as to an attorney’s abilities, check out the Martindale-Hubbell directories, which you can find in just about any law library. The listings in those directories are categorized by location, so you can find someone near you. The listings include ratings for a select number of attorneys; an attorney with a rating has been scrutinized by the editors and found to be especially well-qualified. See here for a decription of the ratings.
Beyond that, I emphatically second pravnik’s suggestion that word-of-mouth is the best way to find out what attorneys are worth your time.
At least at the local bar association where I worked, a lawyer would have been dropped from the referral service if there had been a valid complaint about her. Referral services may not indicate that a lawyer is good, but they probably do indicate that the lawyer is not horrible.
I have only a few guidelines. If you can’t get a personal referral from someone who has used this attorney (or been up against the attorney and lost) then find out how many of their clients keep them on retairner and for how long. Repeat business means a lot. You should also feel free to ask about their win/loss record which may mean mas nicht if your looking for an arbiter or similar but still it may be pertinent.
Also if the name is “Lionel Hutz” you might want to move on the your next candidate.
Ona serious note it really depends on the problem involved as people tend to be better at some things than others. Very good attorneys tend to be in demand and slighly more expensive than their more mediocre peers.
It’s not that simple IRL. I know attorneys that are very competent ball busters, but a subset of them tend to churn issues far more than necessary in order to generate maximum billable hours while others just do the job and get on with life. Oddly, the churners are often seen as heroes by their unsuspecting clients for “solving” problems in an aggressive manner that they created in the first place. Divorce attorneys are among the most notorious for this.
The best people to ask are people who use or interact with them and attorneys in unrelated fields that can give a objective read on their peers. Architects, engineers, landlords, commercial real estate agents (like me), bankers, businessmen (and to limited extent politicians) can probably give you a good read on the best lawyers for commercial litigation issues. Private detectives, experienced policeman, experienced social service workers and bail bondsmen could probably give you a good read as to competent attys for domestic or individual felony and misdemeanor defense issues.
Beyond this (based on personal experience) if you know someone who owns their own court reporting business I would say they would be as plugged in as anyone as to which attys are useful for x problem and which ones to avoid as they are in the thick of the process, yet can be somewhat objective.
Please note that the thread you are replying to dates back to 2002. We tend to refer to old threads that get revived like this as zombies. While we do allow zombies here, we ask that you only revive such old threads if you have something new or relevant to add to the discussion.
Since this isn’t providing any significant new content to the discussion, I’m going to put this poor zombie back into his grave.