Monday, May 23, 2011

Comparing Legal Directories

I did a small study to compare the coverage of four legal directories: the Washington State Bar Association's directory, Martindale-Hubbell on LexisNexis, West Lawyer Directory (WLD) on Westlaw, and

I sampled lawyers listed in WSBA's directory by searching for bar numbers ending in "501": 501, 1501, 2501, 3501, 4501, . . ., up to 43501 (who was admitted in March of this year).
Note: This spread out the admission dates, but the sample is much too small for any assurance that it is representative along other lines (for instance, the proportion of lawyers in private practice or the number whose licenses are suspended).  If I had a lot more time, I'd love to look at a sample of several hundred lawyers, but I don't right now. Maybe one day.
WSBA sample:
  • 41 living,
  • 2 deceased,
  • 15 women (based on names like "Sylvia" and "Ruth"), 26 men (names like "Steven" and "Luke").
  • 35 active bar memberships,
  • 19 in private practice,
  • 30 in Washington State,
  • 17 with areas of practice listed.
Of those 41 living lawyers, how many were in the other directories?
  • Martindale-Hubbell? Just 5.
  • WLD? 30 (one with a different name, apparently a married name).
  • Avvo? 40. (Avvo mines bar association directories.)
If you were looking for basic biographical information, such as where the lawyer went to law school, where would you find it?
  • WSBA: 0
  • MH: 5
  • WLD: 26
  • Avvo: 14 (plus 2 listings linked to the lawyers' firm websites) 
In this small sample, there were no lawyers listed in Martindale-Hubbell but not in WLD. But don't conclude that WLD always has everyone listed in Martindale-Hubbell: I have often found people listed in MH who were not listed in WLD, even if WLD has more overall.

When lawyers claim their Avvo profiles and submit information, it can be a rich source, with photos, publications, and more.

  • If you want to know if someone is a member of the Washington State Bar, use the WSBA directory.
  • Use the WSBA directory for current addresses.
  • Use the WSBA directory for disciplinary history. (This is also picked up in Avvo.)
  • If you want to find out basic biographical information for a given attorney, such as schools attended, use WLD, Avvo, and MH.
  • Avvo often provides extra information, such as awards, comments by clients and colleagues, pictures, and publications.
  • Do not assume that any one directory has comprehensive coverage.
  • If you want to search by area of practice, you can try the WSBA directory, but the others seem more developed.
  • If you want to search by school attended, use MH or WLD. (Avvo lists schools, but you can't search by school.)
For more tips on searching legal directories, see Sample Searches for Networking and Informational Interviews.

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