Looking for a Few Good Lawyers

If you're in the market for an attorney, you might want to also include the Internet in your search.

When looking for a lawyer, flipping through the Yellow Pages is usually the first course of action. While all lawyers are allowed to advertise, only Florida Bar board certified attorneys are allowed to identify themselves as specialists or experts.

There is now a new Web link for people to choose a lawyer with this highest level of recognition.

John H. Foote, partner, Fonvielle, Lewis, Foote & Messer, says, "More and more people are researching lawyers online and I think it's good to have that information about board certification because that does mean that those lawyers have gone that extra step."

Florida board certification is a voluntary program. Lawyers must practice for at least five years, be substantially involved in the field of law for which certification is sought, pass the exam, be evaluated by other lawyers and judges, and they must have a satisfaction of the certification area's continuing legal education requirements.

Some attorneys say that choosing a lawyer by looking only at that list is not fair to those who have passed the Florida Bar but not board certification.

Katrice Jenkins, attorney, Parks & Crump, says, "Even though I think it's a good idea to have board certified attorneys listed on a website, I think it's important to have all attorneys listed because young attorneys such as myself who haven't had the five years of practice, or may not have the experience of more elder attorneys, would not have the opportunity to be listed on that website."

Attorney Maja Holman adds, "One percent of attorneys are actually board certified, so the phone book is still very relevant material because it does include all attorneys within the area which it covers."

Then, there's always the good old-fashioned way of making a decision: word of mouth.

Molly Sowcik says, "I would ask somebody. I would ask friends to recommend somebody. I don't think I would look in the Yellow Pages. I think I would go on recommendations of other people."