Of course, one of the easiest ways to find out about a lawyer is to simply Google the lawyer’s name or firm name. But if you want to be certain the information you find is fact-based and objective, some suggested sources are below.
One of the best ways to look up the lawyer you’re currently working with is through the state’s bar association. This link will take you to the Florida Bar Association’s lawyer search page, from which you can find out if a lawyer is a member of the Florida Bar as well as his or her professional address and date admitted to practice law in Florida, and whether the lawyer is in good standing, inactive or retired.
This link will take you to a site that is maintained by the Florida Department of Insurance, which offers information on malpractice claims paid by insurance companies for lawyers, doctors, and other professionals in Florida for the last 10 years. Very few states offer this type of information to the public. When choosing the county it is best that you choose “all” because lawyers may have had claims in more than one county. Watch out for variations of a lawyer’s or law firm’s name. Many law firms change their names frequently as lawyers join and leave the firm, and we have seen lawyer data listed sometimes using the lawyer’s middle name, and sometimes not. It may be best to search using only the lawyer’s last name. Prior to March of 1988, insurers were only allowed to report the name of the law firm instead of the name of the individual lawyer deemed responsible for the malpractice claim. While this paid malpractice claim database often has very useful information, unfortunately, there is much information we know it does NOT have, including:
If you would like to order more information from the Florida Department of Insurance about specific closed malpractice claims reported on that site, here is a link to tell you how to do that: order
Open and ongoing lawsuits, or lawsuits resulting in judgments which have not been paid, can usually only be reliably found through the individual state circuit courts in each county where the attorney may have been sued. This used to require actually traveling to the court locations to look up records, but now most counties in Florida offer public access to some or all court records online. Each county clerk’s website varies, and online court records usually do not go back more than a decade or two. But the records can generally be searched by a party’s name, so you should be able to find any recent malpractice cases filed against a lawyer if you know the counties where he or she has practiced. Of course, many attorneys and law firms practice all over the state, so this approach can still be time-consuming. Very few malpractice cases are filed in federal court.
For many years Martindale-Hubbell has been the premier lawyer directory used by members of the legal profession to find out basic information about other lawyers. Its online listings frequently include large professional biographies for individual lawyers and their law firms, although since lawyers are charged based on the size of their biographies, some lawyers or firms have only a very rudimentary listing and some no listing at all. If you find a lawyer listed in Martindale-Hubbell, be sure to look for “rating” information (usually a separate link) in the biography. After you have determined if the lawyer is rated AV, BV, or CV, visit the page with the rating explanation on Martindale-Hubbell’s site to find out how the ratings are determined and what they mean.
Avvo rates lawyers using an impartial mathematical model based on years in practice, absence of a disciplinary history, professional achievements and industry recognition. As with the Martindale-Hubbell ratings, there is no rating favoritism and lawyers cannot pay to be rated, or to improve their ratings.