Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a monthly column written by Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen.
Jan Bissett is a Reference Librarian in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. She is a past president of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and has published articles on administrative and research related topics in the Michigan Association of Law Libraries Newsletter and Michigan Defense Quarterly. She and Margi Heinen team- teach Legal Information Sources and Services for Wayne State University’s Library and Information Science Program in Detroit, Michigan.
Margi Heinen is the Librarian at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches Legal Resources at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and is team teaching with her co-columnist, Jan Bissett, at Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science. She regularly does Internet training of legal staff at her firm and recently collaborated with Kathleen Gamache on an I.P.E. presentation, Internet Strategies for the Paralegal in Michigan. She is active in the Law Librarians of Metro Detroit and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries.
Those of us in the law business often need contact information for other practitioners in our profession. Sometimes we need basic information to return a call when the cell phone or speaker phone static makes that information a crackle. Or we may need background information to assess the attorney on the other side. We occasionally seek to identify attorneys who can handle a matter for us in a different jurisdiction or legal arena. The goal of this column is to help you find attorney information from a variety of sources, especially State Bar directories of members. We don’t describe the process and caveats of finding an attorney to handle your personal legal problem – that is a journey for another day.
Myriad directories of legal professionals exist. Access depends upon the information you may have and that you seek. Several pathfinders illustrate the types of information available as well as describing specific sources:Duke University School of Law Library’s Directories of Lawyers provides information on web and print resources including identifying general and state directories as well as practice related and international materials.
The lawyer directory we all cut our teeth on, Martindale-Hubbell, is still our instinctive choice. Just remind yourself there are two web sites from Martindale Hubbell. Martindale.com’s lawyer locator with listings of over one million lawyers and law firms in 160 countries includes corporate and faculty legal professionals listings as well as national and international attorney searches by location, language, name, practice or firm. This web version and the print source include ratings for 43% of the
Martindale-Hubbell, part of the LexisNexis family of products, has as its counterpart West Group’s Findlaw/West Legal Directory. The Findlaw directory has the same advantage its predecessor West Legal Directory had: contact information for solo practitioners or small firms. One of the drawbacks of the classic Martindale-Hubbell search is the possibility of finding nothing or only the name of a small law firm you are seeking, no address or telephone number, much less any biographical information. West’s product, on the other hand, is a great place to check for basic information on attorneys in all size firms.
A serious drawback to the Findlaw directory (not a problem on the Martindale site) is the requirement that a lawyer search use a surname. The necessity of a surname means every misspelling makes the site useless. We too often are taking notes from people on speaker phones, static-filled lines or the requester simply has no idea how to spell an unfamiliar name or isn’t sure of which common spelling might be used. Painful as a search by first name might be, narrowing that search by geographical area will yield at least a list of attorney possibilities. A number of Web-based attorney directories suffer from this restriction of a required surname so you may want to find out if the professional has a specialty or where he/she practices to determine if other directories are available. You may also want to try a simple Google or Yahoo search with variant spellings to see if you can find a web site for the attorney or a reference with the correct spelling.
When you cannot find an attorney in one of these directories one option is to go directly to the Bar Association to which he/she may belong. A majority of states have what is known as a “unified bar” which regulates the licensing of attorneys in the state. The Vermont Bar Association provides a list of state bar associations and their unified or voluntary status. Even the voluntary state bar associations usually maintain lists of members with contact information.
Going directly to the bar association can be especially helpful if you are finding outdated material in the national directories: changes in address or location may be more quickly updated by the bar associations. These bar associations’ directories fall into roughly three categories:public access/searching of their membership on the Web;membership only access; and a third group publishes in print only and may require a telephone call to verify an attorney’s membership. We have noticed that while it is easy to locate state bar web sites, it is often not clear if they have a searchable member database or just how searchable the database may be. Often the referral service of the bar is clearly linked but the listing of members is not. We offer the listings we’ve identified below of available attorney directories/ member information at the state bar association level.
Search template offers name, location and law school search options.
Bar Association Member Directory
Search by last name or bar number only. Information is provided at the discretion of the member but includes inactive and deceased member names.
State Bar Member Finder
Especially helpful search template – includes language as a search field.
Search options include surname, practice area or location.
State Bar of California Member Records Online
Search by number or name in a database that indicates active or inactive membership status.
Only available to members. Requires a login and password.
Search choice of 2 templates:attorney name or company/geographic location.
Florida Bar Attorney Search
Active, inactive and retired members of the Bar; search by last name, first name and city optional.
State Bar of
Search by last or first name, company, city, state or zip code.
Search by attorney’s last name.
Illinois Lawyer Finder [Illinois State Bar Association’s lawyer directory]
Entries include members of the State Bar with a specified minimum coverage of professional liability insurance in good standing as determined by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Search by field of practice, name, city, zip code or county.
State Bar of Michigan Member Directory http://www.michbar.org/member/content.html
Search by first or last name; city (mailing city) can be used to refine the search.
“The Mississippi Bar, in conjunction with LawNetCom, maintains an online membership directory that can be searched by first name, last name, address, city, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, or any combination of two of the above.”
[Members only login].
State Bar of New Mexico Attorney Finder – Online Attorney Directory
Search by last or first name, employer, certified specialization, practice area, foreign language ability, city, state or counties in which cases are accepted for active, licensed State Bar members.
North Carolina State Bar Member Directory
Search by name (first, middle or last), city or state.
Query by word or phrase; Boolean searching (AND; OR; AND NOT; NEAR); truncation possible as well as free-text queries.
Ohio State Bar Association Membership Directory
Search by name (first, last), address (city, state, zip code), Firm name, county or type of practice.
Oregon State Bar Membership Directory
Search by bar number, first or last name.
State Bar of Texas Member Search
Find an attorney in
Utah State Bar Find A Lawyer
Key word, case-sensitive searching of all licensed members of the Utah State Bar.
West Virginia State Bar Membership Directory
View a list by active, inactive members or interactive search. Template includes law i.d., last name, county, city and status.
WisBar Lawyer Search
Wyoming State Bar Lawyer Directory
Search by lawyer’s last name or city.