When searching for a qualified civil attorney, it is important to confirm that they have the proper licenses and credentials. A good first place to check is with the state bar associations. State bars check the background of a lawyer to determine whether they are in compliance with the laws and codes of conduct expected of a lawyer. Below are a few things to keep in mind when looking for an attorney.

Graduation from an Accredited Law School

A civil attorney must have graduated from a law school certified by the American Bar Association (ABA). These days, there are plenty of “fly-by-night” law schools that will graduate an aspiring attorney to acquire their tuition. For an institution to receive ABA accreditation, they must meet several requirements, such as:

  • Having a favorable teacher / faculty ratio
  • Teaching certain required basic and advanced subject areas
  • Must have attendance requirements of all students

Bar Passage

A civil lawyer must have passed the bar exam for each state in which they will practice. The state bar is a difficult written test given to attorneys in all states. In some states, such as California, the test spans over a period of 3 days. Only people who pass the bar become civil attorneys.  In fact, an individual who has not passed the bar exam that is holding themselves out as a lawyer may be committing a crime.

Minimum Continuing Legal Education

A civil attorney must maintain minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) requirements. For example, the California Bar requires 25 hours of education every three years in legal ethics, prevention of substance abuse, and the promotion of fairness and justice.

Good Standing with the State Bar

A civil attorney must maintain a good standing with their bar association by adhering to the rules of professional conduct. Violations of the rules of professional conduct will lead to attorney sanctions and punishments. A civil lawyer’s negative record can often be accessed through your state’s bar association. 

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