Answer: Technically, everybody deserves a second chance.
But don’t you want to know if the individual handling your personal injury case was once suspended from the practice of law for stealing funds from his office partner, his clients, and his girlfriend?
An attorney has access to your very sensitive personal data – basically, your life’s story.
He or she is going to need to know about preexisting conditions, your medical history and even your sex life. Your bank details might be in your file.
This person is a fiduciary, and your financial welfare is tied to this attorney’s performance. Trust needs to exist at every level and in every transaction you have.
What should I do when choosing an attorney?
It’s always awkward to ask, “So, when’s the last time you were suspended from practice?”
Attorneys generally aren’t keen on talking about that sort of thing, and the kind of person who has been suspended probably isn’t going to freely talk about it.
This means you have to take matters into your own hands and do a little sleuthing.
Look up the attorney on the state bar association website
Each state has its own bar association that grants licenses to attorneys. These associations monitor and discipline lawyers, suspending or disbarring those who violate the code of ethics for that specific state.
You can look at your state’s bar association website and search for that attorney by name or license number.
Example: Colorado Supreme Court
Using Colorado as an example, the state Supreme Court provides a simple attorney search webpage that allows users to search by name or bar number. Results shows whether the attorney is active, inactive, suspended or disbarred.
Each state has a similar search function.
Google online reviews and complaints
When picking an attorney for any matter, at the very least you should search for reviews online and see what others have said.
You can find reviews on Facebook, in popular directories and by simply Googling an attorney by his or her name. You should include the city to make sure you’ve got the right one – there are a lot of lawyers!
Informal online reviews will give you a sense of what it’s like to work with an attorney, including any complaints and praise from past clients
So do your homework, kids! A quick Internet search can save you a very uncomfortable conversation later on.