What Credentials and Certifications Should You Look for in a Virginia Attorney?

Some lawyer credentials aren’t worth the cost those attorneys paid for them - they are just used as advertisements and don't reflect at all on the quality of the lawyer. There are dozens of certifications, accreditations, and memberships any lawyer can get by paying a fee. One of my nine myths about lawyer advertising (my book has the other eight) is that all lawyers get the same training and deserve a Best Lawyers profile page.

The truth is the training each lawyer receives prior to and after bar admission varies greatly. That doesn’t mean that an attorney who graduated from Harvard is necessarily any better than one who graduated from another school, however.

There's also the issue of lawyer credentials...

Earning Recognition on a Best Lawyers’ Profile Page

There are all sorts of specialty memberships, ratings, certifications and credentials that a lawyer can post to their profile page on a directory. Some of these, such as a Martindale-Hubbell AV rating, have to be earned by showing high ethical standards and exemplary legal ability. Other “talking points” many lawyers advertise on their profiles are things like membership in the American Bar Association – all that takes is payment of dues.

Here are five lawyer credentials you should be looking for from a good lawyer:

  • board certification from the National Board of Trial Advocacy;
  • high rating on AVVO;
  • inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America publication;
  • an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell; and
  • a listing on SuperLawyers.com.

When a lawyer has these credentials, they have earned them; they're not something that can be bought. Through peer reviews, nominations, and trial experience, these independent lawyer rating sites allow only the best of the best to carry their seal of approval.

Lawyers Should Always Be Learning...

Warren Burger, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, had some wise words on lawyer education:

“A lawyer is not qualified, simply by virtue of admission to the bar, to be an advocate in trial courts for matters of serious consequence.”

So are all lawyers the same? Definitely not. Those who are dedicated to being the best lawyers they can be will go that extra mile, take that continuing education course, study up on that new law. They’ll do what they feel is best to help make people who view their listing on AVVO or their Best Lawyers profile page feel confident that they’re dealing with a great legal resource.

Knowing You Found the Best Lawyer's Profile Page

After compiling a list of attorneys in your area and looking at online profiles and websites, it’s time to pick up a phone, fill out a contact form, or shoot out an e-mail. While I caution you on choosing a lawyer from just one or two things like listing with Best Lawyers or profile page credentials, sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling.

I highly recommend before making any decisions that you take advantage of any free stuff your potential lawyer offers. Many lawyers, myself included, have authored books on their practice areas or developed CDs or DVDs full of information about your type of case. If your lawyer has these, it’s often a sign that they’re dedicated to the area of law in which you need help.

Don’t skip the offer for a free consultation, either, because that’s where you get the opportunity to interview a potential lawyer. During the consultation, you can ask about lawyer credentials, trial experience, compensation rates, and get answers to questions specific to your case.

If you’re uncomfortable with the lawyer during the interview it may be a sign to walk away. Remember that legal cases can take months, even years, and you’re going to be dealing with this office during that time. Don’t make your decision to hire a lawyer in haste – do your homework!

Myths Behind Lawyer Advertising

When you’re looking for the best Virginia lawyer for your legal needs, do your homework. Personal injury attorney Ben Glass has been practicing law in Virginia for nearly 30 years and he’s seen firsthand how deceptive lawyer advertising can be. That’s why Ben wrote the book, The Truth About Lawyer Advertising; Virginia residents can request a free copy of this invaluable attorney hiring resource.