There are occasions when researching another attorney makes sense. Evaluating potential co-counsel is a common situation. However, it may also be necessary when conducting a lateral hire search or educating yourself on opposing counsel. This article outlines a few online options when conducting this type of background research.
The obvious first step when researching an attorney is their personal or firm Web site.
Many times the site will include more than just a general biography. Additional information may include major cases, presentations, publications, and awards.
Occasionally, the profile will incorporate employment history and civic participation.
Another stop is news databases. Search the name in Google News, Topix, or via paid service. However, a word of caution, make sure to formulate the search correctly to ensure the stories produced are about the proper individual.
With the increase in social networking, check for a LinkedIn profile.
The amount of detail found on this page varies depending on the individual. Education, work history, awards, and contact information is commonplace.
Many bar association websites contain member information. Usually, it is limited to name, firm, year admitted, education and the existence of disciplinary actions. The key, of course, is to remember that membership may not be mandatory in the state being researched. The Wisconsin Bar Association maintains a great lawyer search option. The “advanced search” function allows the user to search by name, organization, member ID number, law school, etc.
In Wisconsin, the Office of Lawyer Regulation “is established to carry out the Supreme Court’s constitutional responsibility to supervise the practice of law and protect the public from misconduct by persons practicing law in Wisconsin.” Their Discipline Compendium is a powerful tool. It allows searching by reprimand type (public, private, or Supreme Court), name, sanction, topic, Supreme Court rule, or Keyword. This database appears to go back to the early 1980’s. For earlier data, you can contact the Office for assistance. Pending complaints and petitions for license reinstatements are also available from this Website.
Many consider Martindale-Hubbell to be the premier lawyer directory. The Martindale Website has seen some significant improvements over the past several months. One enhancement is the “mini Web site” for firms. When researching a particular attorney, the searcher will find general facts, including peer review ratings, contact information, practice areas, education, etc. From this profile page, take note of the “About this firm” section. It includes a firm overview, listing of articles, offices, and federal litigation activity. You will need to register for access.
The firm overview page gathers the relevant information for quick evaluation. The “law firm snapshot” is a printable synopsis of the firm’s ratings, federal litigation data, and transactional history. Lexis incorporates data from their atVantage product when compiling some of the reports.
If researching for lateral hires or possible co-counsel, Martindale.com offers side-by-side comparisons and a watch list to monitor particular firms or attorneys. Another feature is the diversity profile, which provides details on a firm’s diversity initiative.
Findlaw for Legal Professionals has an extensive lawyer directory.
To find it, choose “Research the Law” from the menu, then “Research an Attorney or Law Firm.” The basic demographics provided include name, firm, practice areas and the date of the last update.
The benefit of this directory, however, is the “litigation record” found on the left side of the result page. The user must register to access this data, but registration is free. The litigation record is a listing of Federal and State judges, dockets, and published cases associated with the attorney of interest. While the listing is extensive, it is not exhaustive.
Make sure to conduct a general search, or query Findlaw’s “Article Library” to see if the attorney has authored any articles.
Avvo is a relatively new lawyer directory. It goes well beyond general biographical and demographic information by including disciplinary information and an overall rating. This rating system assigns a score of 1 – 10. If no information other than licensing data is available, the attorney’s rating is usually either “no concern” or “attention.” The Website’s “Avvo Rating” page explains the procedure in detail.
Profiles include a variety of facts. Review the Avvo rating, sanctions, practice summary, schooling, licenses, awards, associations, publications and presentations, endorsements from other attorneys, and client evaluations.
Client evaluations allow “customers” to express their general satisfaction. The writer rates factors that include trustworthiness, responsiveness, knowledge and the attorney’s efforts to keep the client informed. The client can also provide a commentary.
Avvo addresses numerous issues in their “Lawyer FAQ” section from updating profiles, to endorsements, to listing key decisions. They also discuss reporting incorrect data and advertising.
Westlaw Profiler is a fee-based option. Profiler is described as the “attorney’s West Legal Directory profile and … links to State and Federal case law from 1990 forward, jury verdict summaries,” court briefs from 1990 forward, other industry directories and articles. In addition to the basic biographical information, Profiler can include representative clients, affiliations, and pro bono activities.
Westlaw also offers the option to print a “Litigation Report” (PDF). The researcher selects a specific time frame and executes the search. This easy to read report presents information in a chart format. It lists several items of value — total dockets by year, case types (e.g. Labor, bankruptcy, IP), clients, and industry.
LexisNexis Analyzer (PDF), a fee-based product, creates an attorney profile gathering case histories, legal news, verdicts and settlements, law reviews and much more. Depending on the attorney researched, this can be a very detailed report.
Another possible paid service to consider when researching an attorney is CourtLink’s Strategic Profiles. Your query result generates a graphical representation of an attorney’s litigation history encompassing docket items, parties, and judges.
Conducting a news search in Lexis&
rsquo; Negative Business News database produces a result list of adverse or unfavorable news stories relating to a specific individual. The database searches the text of news items for specific terms such as misconduct, negligence, bribe, etc.
Bev Butula is a reference librarian at Davis & Kuelthau s.c. in Milwaukee.