The best place to begin your search for an attorney in California is on the website for the State Bar Association of California. Although it does not specifically offer lawyer referral services and cannot direct you to a particular attorney, it can provide quite a bit of useful information about its members (i.e., lawyers).
The California State Bar is the largest bar association in the United States, with over 270,000 members. If you visit its website, you will find an immense amount of helpful information that will assist in your quest for finding a lawyer based in California.
For example, on its page dedicated to lawyer referral services, there are links to lawyer referral services that are set up according to the various counties in California. By clicking on the county that is closest to where you live, you can find access to a number of different websites that have lawyer referral services.
An attorney referral service is defined as a network of lawyers that provides the contact information for and directs people to the right lawyers that may be appropriate to hire for their particular legal issue. This applies no matter what state you are from.
Additionally, if you are simply looking for information about a particular attorney, the website also has a search function that allows a visitor to search for them. If they are registered with the California State Bar Association, then the search should provide details about the attorney, such as their educational history, the year they were admitted to the bar, and whether they are in good standing.
Finally, if you meet the conditions of someone who qualifies for free legal assistance, the Bar website can also direct you to a State Bar listing of legal aid groups who may be able to help you with your case.
What Type of Attorney Information is Available on the Internet?
While some information can be found about an attorney by doing a quick search or through their law firm’s website, the “Attorney Search” database on the website for the State Bar Association of California is still the best option for finding detailed information about its members.
Basically, if they are a practicing attorney in the State of California, then they should be listed. Some of the information that the website provides about its members includes the following:
- An attorney’s name and other contact information, such as their firm’s address, email address, and telephone number;
- The date that the lawyer was admitted into the California State Bar;
- Their educational background, including any undergraduate and law schools that they attended;
- Their membership status, which entails the member’s current eligibility to practice law in the state of California, along with the effective dates; and
- Any records of public discipline or other administrative actions.
When searching for an attorney to help with a case, the most important information is a lawyer’s membership status. Their membership status will state whether they are active, inactive, not eligible, resigned, or disbarred.
However, the database will not provide information on former legal professionals who are deceased, or those who are currently serving as a judge in a court of law.
Information is also available as to whether they are a “certified legal specialist” in a particular field of law, which is useful to have if you already know what type of lawyer you need.
What Should I Be Looking for When Searching for an Attorney?
Regardless of what website is being used to find a California attorney, there are certain basic credentials that a person should be looking for when hiring an attorney, which includes their:
- Bar Status: Check to see whether the lawyer is actually a registered member of the California State Bar. This may be one of the most important things to check when seeking a lawyer for your case.
- Being a member implies that they have fulfilled all of the requirements for becoming a lawyer in the State of California (e.g., graduating from law school, passing the bar exam, and completing a moral character investigation).
- Active Bar Status: You should also check that their membership status states that they are still currently active and practicing in California. Having an “inactive” status means that they are not currently practicing, but this can change over time.
- A member whose status describes them as ineligible, resigned, or disbarred, generally cannot practice law in California.
- Disciplinary Actions: Note whether the attorney was ever subjected to any disciplinary actions. A prior history of disciplinary action does not automatically disqualify a lawyer from practicing in California, however, as a potential client you have every right to know their history since you will most likely be working with them on important legal matters.
- Any Additional Information: You should gather any information that you think may be helpful for your particular case. For example, if your case requires a lawyer that specializes in a specific field of law, or if you rather hire a lawyer who graduated from a particular law school, all of this information can be found online as well.
What If I Want to File a Complaint About a California Lawyer?
The California State Bar website has a link under a heading labeled, “Complaints and Claims,” where a person may opt to either submit an online form to report their complaint or print off a complaint form to fill out and mail in to a particular address.
The website also provides visitors additional information regarding how the Bar goes about disciplining their members (i.e., lawyers).
Visitors may also obtain a certificate of standing for any member registered under the California State Bar system. A certificate of standing is a written statement that verifies certain information, including whether a particular attorney has a prior record of public discipline and whether or not they are currently in good standing with the bar.
If an attorney does have a public record of discipline, the certificate will not provide any details as to why the attorney may have been subjected to discipline. As of January 2020, a certificate is available upon request for a fee of $25 for up to a maximum of three certificates per attorney.
For further information on filing a complaint or obtaining a certificate of standing, please visit the State Bar of California’s website.
Where Else Can I Find a California Attorney?
A private attorney referral service is another option for finding the right attorney. You can find a private service by doing a quick Internet search. Normally, private attorney referral services are free and will often provide multiple referrals based on where you are located or where your legal action is pending.
Aside from the options previously mentioned, if you know any attorneys or have friends that know attorneys, try asking them for help. Also, if you have ever worked with a lawyer before, you should contact them or their firm.
While your network may not directly provide you with the right attorney for your case, they can help lead you in the right direction or may know someone within their network that they can connect you with for assistance.
One last option is yours truly: LegalMatch! LegalMatch is not an attorney referral service, but does use software that helps to connect you with the right lawyer. Unlike a lawyer referral service, a case submitted on LegalMatch is immediately sent to local attorneys who will then be able to reach out to you directly to let you know whether they can take on your case.
There are no fees or obligations for finding and contacting an attorney when using the software on LegalMatch. All of the lawyers in its database are pre-screened and have profiles that visitors can view before contacting them. Additionally, you can also read reviews and see the ratings for each attorney that is listed on the website.