Part I: Credentials
When you or a loved one are seriously injured as a result of the carelessness of another, you find yourself in the difficult position of selecting competent representation to assure that you, your loved one, and the remainder of your family receives the benefits of competent and aggressive lawyers that will assure that you receive a full cup of justice-all of the compensation to which you are entitled. The first step in assuring that you have competent counsel is to determine the credentials of the individuals you are considering to represent you or your family. The most obvious starting point is to assure that the law firm you are considering has attorneys competent to practice in the state in which either the incident occurred or the one in which the Defendant resides. Additionally, there may be times when because you have complete confidence in a group of personal injury lawyers in your area that are so well-established nationally, that you can be comfortable knowing that they will select out-of-state, competent counsel in the event that the injury to you or your loved one took place out of state.
Additionally, there are several independent sources to determine the competency of the lawyers you are considering. Martindale-Hubbell is a publication that the rates lawyers according to their competency and ability to perform within a particular subject matter of the law. The highest rating available and given to the best law firms and lawyers is an "AV" rating. You should also inquire whether the lawyers and the law firm which you are considering have received recognition national or locally from the American Association of Justice (formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association) or the local branch of the American Association for Justice. For instance, if lawyers at the law firm you are considering have received "Trial Lawyer of the Year Award", have been past president or another officer of a trial lawyer bar association or are on the Board of Directors of that trial lawyer bar association, that is indicative of attorneys that are active within the community and respected among their peers. Additionally, you may search the magazine representing the city in which you searching for an attorney. For instance, in Washington, D.C. the "Washingtonian Magazine" lists the "best" lawyers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area approximately every two years. If attorneys in the law firm you have been considering have been named repeatedly as the "best lawyers" in the metropolitan area in which you are seeking representation, then you have another strong indication that the lawyers in that law firm and that law firm have an excellent reputation in the community, are competent and have the credentials to represent you and your family.
Finally, there is a National Board of Trial Advocacy . If an attorney in the law firm which you are considering is "board certified" by the National Board of Trial Advocacy you have found a law firm that not only has lawyers licensed in the state, but a firm whose lawyers are on local trial lawyer bar associations and board of directors and/or officers. The lawyers in this firm have also reached the level of competence where they have been "board certified" as trial lawyers , arguably the pinnacle of credentialing for a trial lawyer.
By Ira Sherman, Esq.