Each state regulates the practice of law within its jurisdiction to maintain the integrity of the profession. Regulating the legal profession also protects consumers of legal services.
For the public, the best way to confirm that an attorney is licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction is to contact the licensing or regulatory agency in that state that grants the bar license.
In most states, the licensing or regulatory agency is managed by the state bar or the state bar association. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the licensing or regulatory agency publishes its database online so that the public can easily figure out whether an attorney is licensed, active, and in good standing.
The links to each of those databases are listed below. The directory maintained by the state bar or its disciplinary board is sometimes called the "Roster of Attorneys" or the "Roll of Attorneys."
Five (5) states do not publish their database online or provide any convenient way for the public to access the list. In those jurisdictions, you have to either call or email the state bar to confirm a lawyer's bar license status or bar number.
For the states that provide the information online, each database provides different types of information. Generally, the state bar database provides information about the attorney's name, address, phone number, email address, education, area of practice or specialty, and years in practice.
Most states provide the attorney’s bar number, but some do not. In a few states, the state does not issue a bar license number at all.
How do you check to see if an attorney has a valid bar license to practice law in a given state?
Before you hire an attorney, you might want to confirm whether any disciplinary action was taken against the attorney by a state bar or the court system. Most of these bar directories also allow the public to research the attorney's licensing and disciplinary history.
If you want to find out whether the attorney has ever been disciplined, suspended, or disbarred, these state bar directories are the best place to start your search.
We created a list of these online attorney directories maintained by the state bar in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. This compilation of state lawyer licensing databases is updated regularly.
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*Delaware previously provided information confirming whether the lawyer was in good standing via e-mail, although now its website contains a search feature.
*New Hampshire does not provide an online searchable database of licensed attorneys but you can call the lawyer licensing agency - New Hampshire Supreme Court - 603-271-2646.
*New Jersey does not provide an online searchable database of licensed attorneys but you can call the state's lawyer licensing agency - New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners - 609-984-2111.
*The directory in Oklahoma does not include all attorneys in good standing because attorneys in good standing can opt-out of being included in the publicly searchable database.
*South Dakota does not provide an online searchable database of licensed attorneys, but you can call the state's lawyer licensing agency - South Dakota - 800-952-2333.
*The directory in Virginia does not include all attorneys in good standing because attorneys in good standing can opt-out of being included in the publicly searchable database.
*For the rest of the states, the links provided on this compilation of State Lawyer Licensing Databases should help you quickly find out whether a particular person is a licensed attorney in good standing to practice law in that state.
The links provided above also provide information on how to order a Certificate of Good Standing, which reflects the attorney’s full name, bar number, date of admission, and bar status (i.e. active, inactive, retired, etc.). The certificate of good standing does not include any disciplinary history.
All of these directories allow you to search for the attorney by name. Many of the directories have advanced search features that allow you to search for all attorneys in a particular geographical area or narrow your search based on whether the attorney speaks a specific foreign language or attended a particular law school.
The best directories allow you to conduct a search based on your legal need by searching for focus, section, specialty, or keyword. A few of these directories allow you to narrow your search to find a board-certified specialist in a particular specialty area of the law.
If you need to make a complaint against an attorney for unethical conduct or other misconduct, then visit this link to find a list of the lawyer disciplinary agencies in the United States.
Use the links below to select the state where the attorney practices law. Then go to the state bar site to search the attorney's name or bar number. On many of these directories, you can see if the license has ever been inactive or if the attorney was disciplined for misconduct.
The license can be inactive for a variety of reasons including if the attorney does any of the following:
The attorney's history may also show a public reprimand or whether the attorney was suspended, disbarred or resigned because of serious misconduct. Many of these bar directories also provide a list of disbarred attorneys.
The public can use the attorney directories maintained by the state bar for a variety of reasons including:
List of Current Disciplined and Disbarred Attorneys - The United States Department of Justice and the Executive Office for Immigration Review website provides a list of currently disciplined attorneys, including attorneys expelled from practice before January 13, 2012. Find the attorney's name, city or state, the discipline imposed, the effective date of discipline, and whether the attorney was subsequently reinstated. The term expelled has been replaced by the term disbarred, which has the same meaning and effect. See 77 Fed. Reg. 2,011, 2,013 (Jan. 13, 2012). Find more information about the attorney’s disciplinary history by clicking on the date highlighted in gold. The DOJ website also provides information about the Executive Office for Immigration Review's Attorney Discipline Program including the Professional Conduct for Immigration Practitioners - Factsheet (PDF), the Amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct (2008), (PDF) and the Rules for Professional Conduct (2000), (PDF).
Lawyer Licensing - American Bar Association - Use the American Bar Association (ABA) website to find information about how lawyers become licensed with a state agency in each state. That agency can help you to find out if a person has a law license and is permitted to practice in a particular state. The article has links to each agency so that you can check if a lawyer is licensed. Find information on disbarred attorneys or whether the attorney has been disciplined or suspended from practice.
State Bar Association Directory - Lawyer Legion created a list of information about the different state bar associations throughout the United States. Some states have a voluntary bar association that focuses on advancing and improving the legal profession. Some states have a bar that is a government-sanctioned body charged with the regulation and licensing of attorneys. In some states, one organization serves both functions. Every state, however, has at least one entity that exists to assure confidence in and accountability for attorneys.
Search for New York Attorneys - To verify the license, good standing, or bar number of an attorney in New York, use the “attorney search” feature on the New York State Unified Court System (USC) website. To search the USC database for an attorney in New York, you must enter the attorney’s first name, middle name, last name, or sort by city, state, registration number, registration status or year admitted. The name in the USC database of attorneys corresponds to the name in the Appellate Division Admissions file.
If you need to find out whether an attorney is licensed to practice in a particular state, then visit the above list of attorney directories maintained by each state's bar association. Often called the "roll of attorneys," these directories provide the most updated contact information and disciplinary record for each attorney.
Because the attorney is required to keep the information updated, these directories maintained by the state bar are often the best source of the most current information about the attorney.
The directories maintained by the state bar tend to be far more accurate than the commercial online attorney directories like Lawyer Legion, AVVO, Justia, Findlaw, Lawyers.com, or Best Lawyers.
Many of these directories help the public lookup an attorney focused on a particular practice area of the law. A few of the directories provide information about board-certified attorneys in one of the state-sponsored or national ABA recognized specialization programs. In many states, the State Bar or local bar associations maintain Lawyer Referral Services to assist the public in finding an attorney.
In addition to using the links in this article to find out if the attorney is licensed in a particular state, you can also use the links to investigate whether the attorney was ever disciplined or disbarred. How do you find out if an attorney is licensed and in good standing? Use this compilation of state lawyer licensing databases with phone numbers and links to the state's licensing authority and access online to their database.
This article was last updated on Monday, February 15, 2021.