Kimberly Kitchen faces charges of forgery, unauthorized practice of law and felony records tampering recently after claiming to be a Pennsylvania attorney at BMZ Law for 10 years, even though she was not licensed.
While this is an extreme case, and most attorneys are very truthful in presenting their credentials, it is not unusual for the facts on an attorney’s bio page to become stale or out-of-date over time. Credentials help prospects to distinguish between attorneys, and in today’s competitive market it is crucial that all facts on an attorney bio page be accurate.
We review and update attorney bio pages for use on a website, LinkedIn profile, or law firm brochure in many of our legal marketing campaigns.
Listed below are some real life oversights that we have inadvertently uncovered.
- A young lawyer in Florida, actively engaged in the practice of law at a busy law firm, was not in good standing with The Florida Bar due to a simple failure to pay an administrative fee.
- A more experienced Florida attorney lost track of the renewal cycle, and ended up risking a lapse in her license due to a late renewal payment.
- District and Appellate court admissions frequently lapse due to failure to pay a renewal or other fee.
Another consideration is out-of-state licenses. Many attorneys are licensed in multiple states, and over time licenses outside of the home state can become inactive. When this happens, it is common practice to indicate “(Inactive)” after identifying the state.
Name changes can also create confusion, particularly for female attorneys who change their name after a marriage or divorce.
Overall, it is not uncommon for us to see a 10 to 15 percent error rate in court admissions data on attorney bio pages. This can be particularly true with more experienced attorneys who have accumulated many court admissions during their career, and mistakenly fail to keep up with renewal requirements due to the crush of more pressing case deadlines.
Keeping an attorney bio page up-to-date is an on-going task. If a law firm or the individual attorney does not take a proactive stance on fact-checking bio pages, chances are that one of two embarrassing situations can occur:
- The attorney may need to file a case in a court where they claim to be admitted, only to find out that they have outstanding fees. When time is of the essence, clearing up admission renewal fees can potentially cause a delay in an important matter.
- A client or prospect may check directly with a court on an attorney’s admission status, only to find that they are in fact not in good standing.
U.S. District Courts frequently make it easy to identify the year an attorney was admitted to the court, as well as their current status as being either active or inactive.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, for example, allows any member of the public to look up attorney admissions information based on an attorney’s last name and Bar number (which is publicly available on The Florid Bar website). Other U.S. District Courts routinely provide admissions information on request over the phone via the Clerk’s Office.
Bottom line, a best practice in legal marketing is to review attorney bio pages and confirm the accuracy of licensing and court admissions status at least every six to 12 months.
About the Author: Law Firm Marketing Consultant Margaret Grisdela
Margaret Grisdela is president of Legal Expert Connections, Inc., a national legal marketing agency, and author of the book Courting Your Clients. She has more than 30 years of experience serving attorneys, accountants, investment banks and businesses with high quality information products and services designed to generate revenue. Connect via LinkedIn or at 1-866-417-7025.