Every attorney has some basic credentials in common: He had to graduate from high school, college and law school, and pass the bar exam in the state(s) in which he practices.
I will be the first to tell you, however, that the ability of two lawyers with credentials that look identical can often be miles apart.
Think about it. Everyone knows someone they can’t believe is successful, and the same goes for lawyers.
I personally know lawyers who went to great law schools whom I would never refer a client to. I also know other lawyers from not-so-great law schools who are nonetheless excellent attorneys who achieve great results on behalf of their clients.
There are a few things in a lawyer’s credentials that may suggest he may be better qualified to handle your case:
- Membership in professional associations related to the type of law your case is regarding (i.e. bankruptcy law, personal injury or malpractice law). Be aware, however that this clue may or may not tell you whether an attorney is right to handle your case. Many professional organizations only require the payment of a membership fee to join. On the other hand, membership does suggest your potential attorney is at least interested in networking and learning more within the field.
- Selections for merit-based or invitation-0nly organizations. This is a better indicator than simple membership in a professional organization. Attorneys must be invited to join these groups. I, for example, was invited to become a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. My partner, Carl Hayden, was selected as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor bestowed on less than 1% of lawyers. Carl and I have both been selected as NYSuperLawyers by our peers. I don’t tell you this stuff to brag….just to make the point that lawyers who are practicing at the high end of their area of expertise, generally have merit-based honors that they can point to.
- Whether the lawyer has been invited to lecture other lawyers on legal topics and/or authored and published articles in legal publications. Don’t hesitate to ask your prospective lawyer to tell you about his writing or lecture experience. It’s a sign that he is at the forefront of his practice specialty and respected by his peers. For instance, I was selected to write a chapter on handling Personal Injury Cases in the Courts of the Twin Tiers for a book published by the N.Y. State Bar Association.
Your choice of representation can have a profound effect on your level of comfort during the resolution of your case, and on its outcome. I’ve written a book, “The Five Deadly Mistakes That Can Kill Your Accident Case” that explains in great detail the steps you should take in selecting an attorney. Checking credentials is only one part of the process. Please follow the link above to my free book to read some of the other steps in the process.
Bottom line is that choosing a lawyer is VERY important so take the time to choose carefully!
Thanks for reading,
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529