How Do You Determine if an Attorney is Legitimate and Has Passed the Bar?

Written by James Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

If you are in need of the services of an attorney, it is likely that you are facing a complex legal issue that you cannot handle without a legal expert. Understandably, it is important to determine if an attorney is legitimate and has passed the state bar exam. How much effort you expend into verifying this information is your decision.

The easiest way to determine if an attorney has passed the bar exam is to contact the bar exam office in your state. Try doing an internet search with the name of your state and the phrase state bar association. For example, "Vermont state bar association." Some states will have a list of attorneys on the website. In other states, you may have to call or write the state bar association.

If for some reason you are not able to verify an attorney's credentials through the state bar association, try calling the state Supreme Court Clerk. These clerks have a list of attorneys licensed to practice law in their state.

Ask the state bar association or Supreme Court clerk whether the attorney has any complaints filed against them. Try to find out what the complaint was regarding, how the complaint was resolved, and what disciplinary action was taken against the attorney. You may want to think twice about hiring an attorney who has faced disciplinary action.

One way to verify if your attorney is legitimate is to ask your attorney for a short list of cases he or she has argued. Check the results of the case with the clerk of courts. If the attorney was allowed to represent the case in court, it is an indication that the attorney is legitimate and in good standing.

Another way to determine whether an attorney is legitimate is to verify his or her education credentials. Ask the attorney what law school he or she attended. Then, call or write the school to verify the attorney did in fact graduate. You can take it a step further by asking if the law school is accredited by a well-known college or university accrediting agency.

Ask the attorney for a list of clients who are willing to speak with you regarding their experience with the attorney. Consider asking whether the client was satisfied with the outcome of their case and their opinion of how the attorney handled their case.

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