Choosing your lawyer can be one of the most important decisions your family may make. When a friend or loved one is seriously injured, the choice of an attorney could very well mean the difference between recovery or failure. However, a surprising number of Americans do not have the information required for this critical choice.
Many people ask a friend or family member for recommendations when they are seeking an attorney. Although this can be a valuable source to begin the process, it should not be the end of the process. Just because a lawyer is great in one particular field does not mean that he has the required expertise in all areas of the law. If the friend or family member’s experience with that lawyer was not in the same area of the law concerning your case, beware!
Moreover, the law, like medicine, is broken down into many sub-areas or specialties. Even local lawyers do not always know who the top lawyers are in each specialty in the community. If you know an attorney, get him to ask around about lawyers in the particular specialty, which you seek.
One of the best ways to objectively determine the legal ability and ethical rating of a lawyer is to review his “Martindale Hubbel” rating. Martindale Hubbel is a worldwide objective legal rating service. Martindale Hubbel determines a lawyer’s legal ability and ethical standards by seeking detailed information from members of the same legal community in which the lawyer practices.
Judges, lawyers and other members of the legal community are sent information on various lawyers in the community. The lawyers who are being rated do not even know that they are being rated or by whom. In fact, there is no set time frame to have a lawyer’s legal rating determined. Thus, a lawyer may not even get a legal rating for a number of years after he begins his practice. Thus, the system cannot be manipulated.
Martindale Hubbel provides three ratings for lawyers, CV, BV and AV. The V part of the rating is the ethical rating and a lawyer will not receive any rating unless he gets a V. The C, B or A rating relates to the lawyer’s legal ability. Thus, a CV means the lawyer is good to high in legal ability, BV means the lawyer is high to very high in legal ability and AV means the lawyer is very high to preeminent. AV is the highest rating a lawyer can achieve.
The Bar Registry is an organization comprised of only AV rated law firms and is divided by specialty. This is a valuable tool to make sure the AV rated lawyer you choose is AV in the particular specialty, which you seek.
Another organization which objectively ranks lawyers is the International Society of Primerus Lawyers, (Primerus). Primerus starts with only lawyers who have achieved an AV rating. Then, they conduct an extensive screening of the lawyer, including a check to see if the lawyer has ever been sued for malpractice, a check to see if a complaint has ever been filed against the lawyer with the local Bar Association, a site visit to the lawyer’s offices and extensive ratings from local judges, lawyers who have worked with and against the lawyer and the lawyer’s clients. Those individuals are then asked to provide “blind” references to others who know the lawyer. Thus, the system cannot be manipulated.
Primerus also requires that the lawyer engage in double the amount of continuing legal education each year than the amount the bar association requires. It also requires the lawyer to adhere to six pillars for integrity, excellence of work product, reasonable fees, continuing education, civility and community service. Approximately 2% of the nation’s attorneys display the Primerus Seal of Approval.