Finding the right lawyer or law firm for your specific legal need can be tough. Some lawyers and firms take pretty much any kind of legal matter and others focus only on specific areas of law or types of cases. Some lawyers are friendly and easy to work with, others not so much. Costs for legal services can vary dramatically from one firm to another, or even between lawyers within the same firm. Where should a person go to find reliable information?
As with many other things these days, most people start with an internet search to get information about lawyers in their area. This is not a bad place to start, but consumers should be careful about the various lawyer-review websites that are out there. Some provide reliable, verified, and up-to-date information about lawyers. Others not so much. Some sites simply troll other sites and post a mish-mash of collected information about a lawyer that is unverified, frequently outdated, and often inaccurate.
Pay attention to who sponsors or publishes the site. Sites associated with Martindale Hubbell, such as Martindale.com (Lawyer Locator) and Lawyers.com, are long-standing reputable sites that work with attorneys and law firms to provide accurate information to the public. They also periodically seek input from other attorneys (and sometimes clients) about an individual attorney’s experience, skills, and ethics, which may result in a rating being assigned to that attorney based on these factors. Attorneys can pay for an upgraded listing on these sites, but they cannot pay for a rating. The rating is based on feedback from those who have experience working with that lawyer. Also be aware that some (but not all) “Top Lawyers” type sites associated with perfectly legitimate sources are actually paid advertising by the lawyer, and are not based on any sort of specialty peer review.
Other sites, such as Avvo.com, LawyerRatingz.com, Lawyerreviews.com, and Lawyer.com (which should not be confused with Lawyers.com mentioned above) often publish lawyer profiles without the lawyer’s knowledge or input. Many of these profiles contain old, inaccurate, incomplete, and unverified information. You will often see disclaimers to this effect in their fine print. They also offer no information about the basis for any “rating” they have assigned. For example, with Avvo, a lawyer’s rating is based largely on whether the lawyer has “claimed” his or her profile and how completely the lawyer filled in the profile (as well as whether they paid Avvo for an upgraded listing).
Even less reliable for helpful information about lawyers and law firms are general consumer rating/review sites such as Yelp, Yahoo, etc. that are more often used for restaurant and retail reviews. As we have all experienced by now, many people post scathing (and often untrue) reviews about any business with which they are angry at that moment. And there is no way to verify who was really the party at fault in the situation. While general review sites such as these can provide information that might prompt you to be more cautious and seek additional information about a lawyer or law firm, they should not be relied upon for accuracy about a lawyer’s professional abilities. People dealing with legal matters are often very emotional (understandably so) and have unrealistic expectations about a lawyer’s ability to make a bad case produce a good outcome. Even the best lawyer can only work with the facts and law at hand. So be careful about relying on one unhappy client’s review. And make sure the site you use is one that provides verified information.