Vital tips when searching for a lawyer Online

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BY ELSIE OYOO

Conducting an Internet search on a lawyer is becoming increasingly common. You may use the web as the primary way of obtaining legal services or as a complement to a referral you have received.  Either way, online searches reveal useful information about lawyers that assist you in making the final decision on whether to hire them or not. You can obtain the following useful information on a lawyer online.

The lawyer’s compliance status with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK)

The LSK maintains a publicly accessible online database of all the advocates (lawyers admitted to the bar) in Kenya. This database requires you to know at least one name of the advocate you are searching for. Once you key in this name, a window opens listing all advocates who bear that name. You can then click on the relevant one, which will show the advocate’s full name, admission number, practising certificate number, work place, postal address and town. The window also shows the advocate’s compliance status for the current and previous years of practice. In deciding to hire an advocate, pick one whose compliance status is “active” in the current year since it indicates that they are licensed to practice law in Kenya.

Congruence between the basic information the lawyer has provided and the information online

When using the Internet to countercheck a lawyer, the information available on them online should confirm the basic information and academic credentials you already possess. For instance, if they claim to operate at a certain office address, is that also captured on their website? Also, if they assert that they undertook their undergraduate studies at a renowned Kenyan university, their online professional profiles should not show that they obtained their bachelor’s degree elsewhere. The same applies to issues such as their team size and their areas of specialisation. Consistency in these areas increases their credibility.

Testimonials and Reviews

An online search on a prospective lawyer may additionally reveal reviews from past clients and their other business associates. While one or two negative reviews may not make you drop the lawyer, a string of complaints and criticisms would. Also, you should give anonymous reviews less weight than reviews from easily identifiable people in trusted professional networking sites and renowned international legal directories.

Cases argued by the lawyer

With the online reporting of Kenyan cases by the Kenya Law Reports on www.kenyalaw.org, you may even come across cases where the lawyer you are researching about represented a party. The presence of such a case already shows that the lawyer has argued cases worth reporting. Skimming through the case could reveal to you details like the type of case, the value of the award, how long the case took and the outcome the lawyer obtained. These show you that the lawyer has experience in and is equipped to handle similar cases.

The Lawyer’s Internet Persona

Looking at things like the quality of the lawyer’s photo, an article about them or written by them and their posts help you form an image of the lawyer.  If the information is of high quality, relatable and incisive, it leads you to trust that the lawyer adopts the same approach in their legal work.

Unfortunately though, some lawyers do their jobs excellently but use social media as an outlet to completely let their wilder side lose. Sympathisers with a laissez faire approach to social media argue that this should be none of a client’s business as long as the lawyer delivers the services.

However, LSK as well as the International Bar Association take a different view. After observing the lowering of professional standards online, the LSK adopted “the IBA International Principles on Social Media Conduct for the Legal Profession”. The LSK also went on to include social media in the Code of Standards of Professional Practice and Ethical Conduct. These documents require advocates on the Internet to maintain professionalism by exercising, among others, professional independence, integrity and honesty. You therefore have the right to expect the lawyer to live up to these standards in their online behavior.

The uses of the Internet are ever increasing. So is the information available there. People buy goods online, do background checks on job candidates, carry out academic research and much more. It therefore makes sense to incorporate the Internet in your search for a lawyer.