The Importance of Thorough Background Screening for Lawyers
The law is one of the most complex and broad areas of study there is, but it’s a subject that governs everybody. Lawyers provide essential services on almost every subject imaginable, from criminal defense to property law or probate settlements. They have access to sensitive information, personal data, and more—so trustworthiness is a necessity. That makes background screening for lawyers imperative.
This need exists for businesses hiring in-house legal counsel and law firms seeking to add new members. Let’s explore why that need is so pressing and consider what different types of employers should do to meet requirements.
Firms hiring new lawyers should conduct their own checks
Lawyers are no strangers to background checks for employment. While law schools don’t use them to prevent students from attending, state bar associations carefully scrutinize lawyers before admission. Bar associations hold lawyers to certain standards of character and performance, and violating those standards can lead to discipline or the denial of a license to practice law.
While state bar associations strive to remain current on each lawyer’s standing, there is risk between periodic checks. The standard for entry should be as high for law firms as it is for admission to the bar. You may even have to do so as a matter of compliance. Hiring an unscrupulous lawyer can damage your firm’s reputation or cause real harm to clients.
State laws on employment background screening for lawyers can vary, so be sure to check the rules in your state.
Why other employers should contact their state’s Bar Association
Private employers should use background screening services to conduct their usual due diligence on new in-house legal applicants. However, contacting the state bar association is the best way to verify a lawyer’s current standing and disciplinary history. Such direct contact can let you confirm that a lawyer has a valid license to practice in your state. You can also learn if the individual has ever had their license suspended, was disbarred, or if the bar censured them for inappropriate conduct. Each of these categories should interest an employer.
What happens if a lawyer is disbarred or disciplined?
State bar associations periodically discipline members who violate standards or the code of conduct. Some of these punishments may only be brief suspensions, while others rise to the level of disbarment—a prohibition against practicing law any further. Some disbarments come with an invitation to re-apply after a specified period.
The threshold to return is very high. Disbarred lawyers must wait for their disciplinary period to end. Then, they must take the bar exam again and re-submit their application, which includes going through the entire background check process again. The disciplinary actions remain on the lawyer’s bar record even once re-admitted. Firms and employers must consider these facts with care.
Protecting Your Best Interests With Better Vetting
For law firms, your reputation as a reliable resource depends partly on hiring individuals with good standing and appropriate character. If someone has received discipline or a suspension from the Bar in the past, extra scrutiny may be necessary. The same is true for employers—but the stakes can be even higher since you may depend intensely on your counsel’s legal advice. Background screening for lawyers is too important to overlook. Ensure you have the correct hiring tools with a clear view of candidates today.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments