Tips & Tricks
So you’ve decided to hire a freelance attorney. But which one? And how can you know if the one you’ve chosen is a good one? Or, if a freelancer is even worth hiring?
Getting over the initial hump to convince yourself to hire a freelancer is one thing. You can get sucked back into a similar analysis paralysis trying to decide which freelancer to hire or if a given freelancer is good enough to hire.
The good news is there are some great resources to vet freelance attorneys. Here are three quick things you can do to educate yourself about the freelancer that you’re considering engaging.
Nearly every state in the country has a directory listing every attorney in the state. While all of them will tell you if an attorney is “actively” licensed and therefore eligible to practice law, many, maybe even most (I haven’t done a survey), include past disciplinary history in that directory. Examples of directories like these are California - which has not only name - but also law school and past licensing discretions and often even an email address. Another example of this is the Washington or Texas state bars, both of which contain a fair amount of information about the respective licensed attorneys.
Just for completeness, there are also regulator websites that are dramatically less helpful. Take, for example, Virginia which has (1) one directory for “Active members who are in good standing and have chosen not to opt-out of the directory.” (2) a second directory for lawyers who have been disciplined (only going as far back as 1991) and (3) a third directory for attorneys “not eligible to practice law because they are not in good standing.” If you’re trying to vet a Virginia lawyer it’ll take you at least two searches to confirm that a prospective lawyer isn’t either disciplined or not in good standing, but even the third search won’t tell you for certain if they are eligible to practice law as they may have opted out of the directory for other reasons entirely.
2. Avvo or other online directories
Luckily regulator websites are not the only directories of lawyers on the internet. Internet Brands is the owner of Martindale.com, Lawyers.com, and Avvo.com, all of which do a decent job of providing information about a fairly wide swath of lawyers.
Up and coming directories like Justia can be helpful and even LegalZoom has an attorney directory now. With more and more startups in the legal technology ecosystem, it’s certain that more lawyer directories of many different varieties will soon emerge.
3. Online presence/Social media
Nearly every one of us leaves a digital trail, even if we don’t want to or mean to. Between a firm website, social media, and other things most of us have done in our lives, it’s likely that you’ll find something on a lawyer you’re vetting as a possible freelancer. LinkedIn is, of course, the place that most professionals keep their resume these days. It’s a great way to learn about someone’s professional history and background. Facebook is the way to see into the more personal side of a freelance lawyer. You might learn about their interests, their family, or other important and helpful background. Finally, the lawyer you’re looking to engage may be a part of another firm (perhaps they are of-counsel or the firm has a generous moonlighting policy) or they may, like some I’ve seen recently, have a specific website or even an entire solo practice dedicated to offering themselves as a freelance attorney.
Finally, don’t forget incredibly helpful resources like LAWCLERK’s reviews. Right on LAWCLERK you can read the experiences that other attorneys have had with a given freelancer. These reviews can be as informative as anything you’ll find on any other site or through any other resource.
The decision to hire a freelance attorney can be a bit daunting and there are lots of things to consider. But vetting the freelancer shouldn’t cause too much stress. Between bar websites, online lawyer directories, and social media and online communities, there are plenty of ways to make sure you find quality, ethical freelance legal help.
 Avvo’s former General Counsel, Josh King, told me that even up to a few years ago there was one or two states that didn’t have this information online but, instead, provided it to Avvo on CD-Rom or in an Excel spreadsheet.