Sources for background information on U.S. attorneys include -
(1) General Directories. The Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory and FindLaw Lawyer Directory provide information on U.S. and some foreign attorneys. If you want to do more sophisticated searching, these directories are available on Lexis and Westlaw, respectively.
You can find links to other Internet directories through the Internet Legal Research Guide. For even more directories, see the separate entry for "Law Firms."
If available, you can also check The American Bar and any other available general directory.
NOTE: If an attorney is not listed in one of these directory, he or she may not really be an attorney - check to make sure he/she is licensed to practice, as described under the entry for "Bar Admission."
(2) Internet Resumes. Lots of firms and law schools post attorney/professor resumes on their Web sites, and many solo attorneys are posting too. Web addresses are generally listed in the print edition of the Martindale-Hubbell legal directory, or you can link to firm Web sites through Internet Legal Resource Guide and FindLaw and Martindale-Hubbell online. If all else fails, try one or two search engines then move on.
(3) Online Rating Networks. Avvo and Lawyer RatingZ are free, online lawyer database that assigns a rating to each attorney covered. Both potentially provide client feedback. Avvo also provides basic biographical information plus disciplinary history.
(4) Specialized Directories. You can check any available specialized directory, such as Who's Who in American Law, Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers, Chambers USA, American Bank Attorneys or Directory of Bankruptcy Attorneys. Who's Who is available on Westlaw (MARQUIS).
If the attorney teaches at a law school, you can check Jurist - The Law Professors' Directory, the AALS Directory of Law Teachers, and/or the "Law Schools" section of Martindale-Hubbell.
Some practice groups have their own specialized directories, such as World Trademark Review 1000 - The World's Leading Trademark Professionals.
Some regions have their own specialized directories too, such as Washington's Best Lawyers by The Washingtonian. Best Lawyers publishes several city-specific newspaper inserts sometimes called "Top Rated Lawyers" (see e.g. here).
If the attorney works for a corporation, see the "Corporate Counsel" section of the Company Personnel entry.
Attorneys who work for colleges and university are listed in the NACUA Directory of Membership and Services, published by the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
(6) News Databases. Search for the attorney's name in a legal news database on Lexis (LGLNWS or, if the attorney was recently admitted, CURNWS) or Westlaw. If you feel it's warranted, use a non-legal or broader News database, or another database vendor (e.g., Factiva).
(7) Case Databases. Search for the attorney as counsel in relevant judicial opinion databases on Lexis (e.g., MEGA;MEGA), Westlaw (ALLCASES), LOIS or Versuslaw. If you find any cases that seem particularly relevant to the situation at hand, you might also want to get the attorney's briefs.
(8) Verdicts and Settlements Databases. Search for the attorney's name on Lexis (VERDCT;ALLVER) or Westlaw (JV-ALL).
(9) Article Indexes and Library Catalogs. You can search for articles written by the attorney in the Current Law Index (a/k/a the Legal Resource Index) and/or the Index to Legal Periodicals, as well as any other index focusing on the attorney's specialty.
To find books, you can search OCLC's WorldCat. Or search the online catalogs posted by the Library of Congress, Harvard University or another library likely to hold any books written by the attorney in question.
Bar Admission: See "Bar Admission."
Billing Rates: See "Law Firms."
Compensation: See "Compensation."
Hard-to-Find Attorneys: If the directories listed above don't work, see "Bar Admission." Most Bar listings give an address and phone number for attorneys admitted in a given state. If that doesn't work, see "Finding People."
Note: If you need the home address of an attorney with a common name, get the attorney's birth date from Martindale-Hubbell, the West Legal Directory or another source and compare it with a searches on Accurint or whichever people finder you prefer (see "Finding People").
Disciplinary Records: Some states post the names of disciplined attorneys on the Internet, including California, the District of Columbia since 1979, Maryland since 2003, New Jersey since 1990, and Virginia; see Legal Dockets Online for more links. Otherwise you can call the relevant state disciplinary authority. The names and numbers of the relevant authorities are posted by the ABA. In New York, call the department where the attorney is admitted (e.g., 1st Dept. 212-779-1779; 2nd Dept. 718-875-1300). In Maryland, call the Court of Appeals (410-260-1500) or the Attorney Grievance Commission (800-492-1660 or 410-514-7051).
To see if an attorney has been subject to disciplinary proceedings anywhere in the U.S., place a request with the ABA's National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank.
In Maryland discipline orders are issued by the Court of Appeals. If there is an opinion, the opinion is published along with the Court's other opinions, with a docket number such as "AG No. xx" (see "Maryland -- Judicial Branch"). If there is no opinion, you can get a copy of the order by calling the Court of Appeals (410-260-1500).
See also "Bar Admission."
Foreign Attorneys: To get background information on foreign attorneys, check Martindale-Hubbell (but not the Web version), the West Legal Directory, A Guide to the World's 1000 International Business Law Firms, European Counsel 3000, AsiaLaw Profiles, the "The Canadian Bar," "Mexican Bar" and/or "International Bar" sections at the end of The American Bar, the relevant Guide to the World's Leading Attorneys by Euromoney and/or any other relevant, available directory.
You could also check The Legal 500 Asia Pacific, The Legal 500: Europe, Middle East & Africa, Which Lawyer? by the Practical Law Company and/or WhosWhoLegal.
U.K. lawyers & firms are listed in the Lawyer Locator (www.lawyerlocator.co.uk), InfoLaw, The Legal 500 and Solicitors-Online.com.
Canadian Lawyers are listed in the West Legal Directory, Martindale-Hubbell and the Canadian Law List (Canada Law Book). Canadian law school professors are listed in the Directory of Law Teachers by the Canadian Association of Law Teachers. Also, the Law Society for each province and territory has an online directory of attorneys:
- The Law Society of Alberta
- The Law Society of British Columbia
- The Law Society of Manitoba [Correct URL but not connecting on 9/13/2013]
- The Law Society of New Brunswick
- The Law Society of the Northwest Territories
- The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
- The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society
- The Law Society of Nunavut
- The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario)
- The Law Society of Prince Edward Island
- The Barreau du Québec
- The Law Society of Saskatchewan
- The Law Society of Yukon
For attorneys anywhere in "the Americas," you can call the publisher of The American Bench in California (800-328-5091), who will provide telephone reference for a fee.
Some practice groups have international directories, such as World Trademark Review 1000 - The World's Leading Trademark Professionals.
For more directories, see "Law Firms."
In addition, check any relevant Web sites, case databases, news databases, article indexes and/or article databases. You'll find contact information for foreign law firms on Hieros Gamos or just pull up the firm web site with a good search engine.
If that doesn't do it, try calling a law library in the given country and ask them to fax you relevant pages from one of their lawyer directories. To find out the name of such directories, try doing a subject search in the Library of Congress' online catalog using the terms "lawyers," "directories" and the name of the country.
In-House Counsel: See the entry for "Company Personnel."
Statistics About Attorneys: Statistics relating to attorneys and the practice of law are collected and posted by the Legal Profession Statistics section of the ABA web site.