How to Check If a Lawyer Is Licensed

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 How to Check If a Lawyer Is Licensed
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 How to Check If a Lawyer Is Licensed

Kate Dore
October 23, 2020

If you need to hire an attorney, you may be dealing with an important, time-sensitive issue. With so much at stake, it’s normal to feel anxious about the decision of whom to hire. While you may have some referrals from friends or family, you should do a bit more research. You may want to know how to search if a lawyer is licensed and whether they will be a good fit for your issue.

How to search if your lawyer is licensed

Every lawyer must be licensed to practice in the state where they work. You can start by searching the attorney’s name on these public databases:

Search the status of an attorney’s license

When you plug an attorney’s name into your state’s website above, you may see details like their address, bar license number, how long they have been in practice and the status of their license.

While your state may only offer limited information, it may be possible to learn more. For example, if you want to know why an attorney was disbarred, you may contact the American Bar Association for more details.

Depending on your issue, you may need more specialized legal advice. In addition to checking an attorney’s bar license, you should also learn about their practice, said Tiffany Hilliard Lipscomb, a Nashville, Tennessee-based paralegal with more than 10 years of estate-planning experience. “If you’re going through a divorce, you don’t want an attorney who spends 90% of their time on trademarks—with divorces on the side,” she said.

Some areas of law—like probate and estate planning—may require another designation. You can search for a probate and estate-planning attorney through the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) through the organization’s website.

“They have to practice for a minimum of five years in the practice area and take an exam to get that particular designation, in addition to having taken the bar exam and gone to law school,” Lipscomb said.

Why is it important to search if your attorney is licensed?

There are a couple of reasons why you should check if your attorney is licensed, Lipscomb said. First, if you work with an attorney without a valid license, their work may not be legally binding, which means their advice or documents may not hold up in a court of law.

Another important reason to review: An attorney without a license may not have up-to-date knowledge in their practice area. “There’s a lot of areas of law that change pretty frequently, so you’re going to want to make sure an attorney is still licensed,” Lipscomb said. “That way you will know they have been required to keep up with their particular practice area.”

Do your homework before hiring an attorney

It’s not easy to find the right attorney for legal advice—but once you have a list of prospects from your state, it may be easier to narrow down your options with a little research. Start by searching each attorney’s license to try and make sure they are in good standing to practice law.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.