Saturday, August 4, 2012

BP Oil Spill Claims: Important Update

Many Gulf Coast and Alabama and Mississippi businesses have not yet submited a claim under the recent BP Oil Spill class action settlement because owners and/or management have misconceptions about the conditions and requirements for making a claim. While some businesses have already had their potential claim analyzed and submitted many businesses have not. A local claims examiner reported that, "so far business loss claims are signifigantly lower than we expected." He also stated that he believes the reason for this is because many business owners in Alabama and Mississippi do not understand just how favorable the terms of the settlement are regarding qualifying. Below is the body of a recent Memorandum to our business clients on this subject.

DATE: August 3, 2012
TO: BF&W Current and Former Business Clients
FROM: Mark Wolfe

I hope this communication finds you and your business doing well. I wanted to take a moment to advise you of recent developments in the BP Oil Spill litigation and business loss claims related thereto. As you may recall, Knox Boteler in our office has been involved in the BP Oil Spill litigation since shortly after the disaster occurred in April 2010. You may have heard there has been a recent class action settlement which includes potential business revenue loss claims and includes any business located in Alabama and Mississippi. What you may not know is that the terms of the settlement are very favorable for business loss claims and, under the new settlement agreement, many of the burdens imposed on claimants via the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) have been removed.

Knox reports that many of his business clients have been reluctant or hesitant to pursue a claim under the new settlement agreement because they do not believe they can “prove” their revenue decline after the oil spill can be directly attributed to the disaster. This is a common misconception and could result in your business missing an opportunity to make a financial recovery from the approximately seven billion dollars allocated by BP for claim payments under the settlement.

Under the new settlement agreement if your business suffered a decline in revenue after the oil spill it may qualify for a financial recovery. Under the terms of the settlement, if a business meets the revenue stream testing requirement, commonly called the “down and up” test, then the calculated loss is automatically presumed to have been from the oil spill. Simply put if a business qualifies under the new testing requirements there is no longer a burden to prove the loss was directly caused by the oil spill. These testing requirements are very favorable for area businesses and the closer your business is located to the Gulf Coast or to a roadway deemed a “critical corridor” the more favorable the testing requirements are. However, under the terms of the agreement, any business located in Alabama and Mississippi may qualify for compensation if the testing protocol is met.

Knox also reports that he has been able to qualify several area businesses for claims that have been previously told by accountants and/or other attorneys they “do not qualify” or that may have only received a partial payment under the old GCCF claim process. I believe this is specifically because of his long standing involvement in this matter and his detailed knowledge of the 1000+ page settlement agreement. This knowledge has allowed him to provide solid legal advice for our business clients regarding their various legal options under the current settlement agreement.  

There are some critical time deadlines approaching in October. The passage of these deadlines will not prohibit a claim in the future (claims can be presented until April 2014) but will close your opportunity to opt-out of the settlement agreement. There is no charge for analysis of the potential claim and claims will be processed and presented on a reduced contingency fee of 20-25% of the funds recovered. [Larger claims may qualify for further fee reductions.]

For further questions on having your business revenue loss claim analyzed, please e-mail Knox Boteler or call 251 433-7766 or 1 866 975-7766. Also, for more information on BP Oil Spill Settlement Claims visit the Oil Spill Resource Center on our web site.

DISCLAIMER: To the extent this informational post may be considered an attorney advertisement, the Alabama State Bar Regulations require the following disclaimer: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the legal services performed by other lawyers. If you currently have an attorney assisting you on the subject matter of this advertisement then you are encouraged to continue using said attorney. However, if you are not satisfied with the service and advice of your current attorney, you are entitled to seek a second opinion from another attorney.

The Mississippi Supreme Court advises that a decision on legal services is important and should not be based solely on advertisements. Free Background information is available upon request to a Mississippi attorney. The listing of any area of practice by a Mississippi attorney does not indicate any certification of expertise therein. See Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(d), Rule 7.4(a), Rule 7.6(a) (1997).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Car Accident Claims: Important Information

DANGEROUS DRIVING DAYS. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the period from June 30th - September 14th is traditionally the most dangerous driving time of the year. NHTSA also reports that August is the most dangerous driving month of the year. It reports that this period is more dangerous because of more drivers on the roadways including summer vacation travelers, more teenagers on the roads because of summer break and more college students traveling back to college at the end of summer. If you have younger drivers in your household, please take a moment to remind them about this dangerous driving time, encourage them to use seat belts at all times and remind them to never text and drive.

CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM INFORMATION. The BF&W award winning publication for auto-crash victims has again been updated. This free publication can be downloaded at no charge from our web site. This publication was last updated in 2010 and the recent edition has been expanded to include more information for auto-crash victims. Since it was originally written by Mark Wolfe in 1994, this publication has been updated numerous times and over 50,000 copies have been published and distributed to the public. We recognize not every auto-crash victim may need or want an attorney, but we believe every auto-crash victim should know their rights under the law and have a basic understanding of how the insurance claim process works. If you, or a friend or family member, have been involved in a motor vehicle collision we would encourage you to order a free copy of this publication or download it from our web site (CLICK HERE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD).

CAR ACCIDENT RESOURCE CENTER. For more information about car accident claims, please visit the car accident resource center on the Boteler, Finley & Wolfe web site. This resource center incudes information and articles on car accident property damage claims, car accident insurance claims and car accident injury claims. It also has over 100 links to car accident resources on the internet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BP Oil Spill Settlement - update!

June 19, 2012. Knox Boteler of Boteler, Finley & Wolfe will be participating in several upcoming public discussion groups concerning the recent BP Oil Spill class action settlement. Knox is helping a number of Alabama and Mississippi businesses analyze and present business economic loss claims. He is also assisting Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) owners with claims as well as several medical claims for clean-up workers who suffered chemical exposure injuries during the clean up. Knox reports that many businesses will qualify for compensation under the recent settlement without having to prove a loss was directly caused by the oil spill. "When the settlement was negotiated, it was recognized that many businesses in the Gulf Coast states suffered indirect losses because of the negative economic impact of the spill on this entire region. The settlement recognizes this and provides a simple revenue loss testing procedure." He added, "if a business meets this revenue loss test, then the loss is presumed to have been either directly or indirectly caused by the oil spill."  For more information on BP Oil Spill claims, click here: Consultations about a potential oil spill loss claim are done at no charge and claims are handled on a fair contingency fee, meaning no fees are owed unless compensation is recovered. Call Knox at 433-7766 with questions or e-mail him at:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

BP Oil Spill Settlement: Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) Claims

The recently announced class action settlement in the BP Oil Spill litigation includes claims for owners of vessels registered with the Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program. The VOO program was initiated by BP after the oil spill and was intended to allow local vessel owners an opportunity to participate in the oil spill clean up operations. The registered vessels were required to be on "stand-by" and the owners had to complete extensive training in advance of receiving a VOO contract. However, many vessels that were registered with the program were either never called into service or used sparingly. Also, some vessels suffered damages in the clean-up operation. In the lawsuit VOO owners claimed that their contract with BP called for payment whether the vessel was put into operation or not and required payment for a specified "usage" period. They also claimed that BP had agreed to compensate vessel owners for any damges to the vessels incurred during the clean-up operations.

Under the proposed settlement, all vessel owners who executed VOO Master Vessel Charter Agreements and completed the initial VOO training program are entitled to compensation under the terms of the BP Settlement Agreement. The fact a vessel owner has previously executed a release of liability against BP or other responsible parties for other claims does not matter. Compensation is determined based on whether the vessel was placed “on-hire” and participated in the program or "on-standby". All VOO vessel owners will get a specified standard charter rate for a set number of days.

If you are a vessel owner and you signed up for the VOO program, you may have a claim for damages under the new class action settlement. For more information, call Knox Boteler at Boteler, Finley & Wolfe, 251 433-7766 or toll free at 1 866 975-7766 or e-mail Knox at

[Notice of copyright: This summary is the work product of the law firm of Boteler, Finley & Wolfe and can not be copied or reproduced for monetary gain or benefit. It is protected from unauthorized reproduction via DigiCrypt.]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

BP Oil Spill Claim Information

The Boteler, Finley & Wolfe web site has been updated to include important information and resources for business owners in Mobile and Baldwin County and Alabama coastal property owners regarding BP oil spill claims. On May 2nd  the proposed class action settlement pending in the Federal District Court in New Orleans was approved. This class settlement will include an estimated pay-out by BP of $7.8 billion dollars to parties impacted by the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Every business located south of Interstate-10 in Baldwin and Mobile counties is in zone A, B or C of the economic loss geographic area. (Some businesses north of I-10 and east of I-65 are in Zone C) Businesses in those three zones will receive a favorable testing procedure to determine if a claim can be made under the settlement agreement. If the revenue loss testing protocol is met, then there is a presumption that any revenue decline after the oil spill was caused by the disaster.

Knox Boteler of BF&W has been actively involved in the litigation of claims since shortly after the BP oil spill and is now working with area business owners to determine if their business meets the favorable testing protocol under the settlement and evaluating the loss claim value. Knox has developed an integrated spread sheet program to help in the evaluation process. He can work with a business' own accountant or accounting firm to help finalize the necessary financial documents and reports needed for claim submission or we have access to accountants familiar with this process who can help. 

Business loss claims under the class action settlement are being handled on a contingency fee of 15% with a fee reduction available depending on the amount of the claim. A portion of accounting fees related to claim preparation and presentation are recoverable. For more information about the evaluation process for a business revenue loss claim, please contact Knox at knox@bfw-lawyers .   

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Win a Pair of Tickets to the Hang-Out Music Fest!!!!

The law firm of Boteler, Finley & Wolfe is giving away a pair of General Admission Tickets to the 2012 Hang-Out Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama, May 18, 19 & 20. More info on Hang-Out Music Fest.

We've been helping injury victims, individuals and small businesses present and prosecute insurance claims since 1988. Read more about BF&W.

BOTELER, FINLEY & WOLFE, Advocates for Insurance Claimants

Lawyers from the community helping people in our community.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Q & A with Senator Ben Brooks re Insurance Reform

For many years the law firm of Boteler, Finley &Wolfe has been advocating for insurance reform in Alabama to help individuals and small businesses with the issue of rising insurance premiums, diminishing benefits and coverage and what we consider to be unfair claim practices. During his tenure in the Alabama Legislature Senator Ben Brooks of Mobile has been an advocate in our State, and specifically along the Gulf Coast, for insurance reform for homeowners and small businesses. Recently Mark Wolfe of BF&W sat down for a Questions and Answers session with Senator Ben Brooks on the topic of insurance reform.

Wolfe: Senator Brooks since your election to the State Senate in 2006 you have been working for insurance reform in Alabama. Can you tell us why this issue is so important to you?

Brooks: Progress on the issue of property/homeowner's insurance reform is profoundly important to the future of our entire region and state. The insurance crisis impacts economic development, job creation, the availability of housing, and the affordability of housing. It negatively affects people from all walks of life and significantly impacts our business community. Reform in the area of property and homeowner's insurance simply must be a top priority for our community. We should approach the issue in a manner similar to how we would rally to seek a major economic development.

Wolfe: Early on in your attempts to push through insurance reform legislation, some of your colleagues in North Alabama were reluctant to support your initiatives claiming it would only benefit individuals and businesses on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Since the devastating tornadoes in April 2011, do you think your peers from those areas that were hit by the tornadoes will be more interested in this issue?

Brooks: Many of us have argued for years that the property/homeowner's insurance issue is a statewide issue. However, in the first few years of the insurance reform effort there were many hurdles to our efforts. Among these hurdles were occasional sad displays of partisanship and occasionally some lack of support from some other geographic regions. Frankly, over the years the geographic political issues began to decline as we made our case for reform.

When the tornados hit the central and northern areas of our State the first concern for legislators along the Gulf Coast was to seek out ways to help our brothers and sisters to the north. Our prayers and thoughts went out, and continue to go out, to those who suffered the terrible tragedies.

Since the tragedies in 2011 some in the insurance industry have announced the cancellation of tens of thousands of policies in areas north of Mobile and Baldwin Counties. Some legislators in the north and central areas of our state are now working more closely on the matter of insurance reform. It was an honor to work with Senator Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa after the tornados in 2011 to add additional relief provisions to one of my reform bills. These new provisions expanded the bill to include other parts of the state other than Mobile and Baldwin Counties. We expect this will occur more and more frequently.

Wolfe: A few years ago ALFA Insurance Company was critical of you and your attempts to bring about legislation for insurance reform. What is the basis for their concerns and have you considered the economic interests of the insurance companies on the issue of reform?

Brooks: Without question some in the insurance industry have been more willing to talk about insurance reforms than others. Each of the industry representatives should have to outline why they in the past took a particular position in opposition to reform. However, in general it often seems that when legislation is proposed that may result in changes to the status quo, then some interests are automatically resistant. This has been true in the insurance reform effort as well.

We have a crisis of both availability and affordability in the homeowner's insurance area. Legislators on all sides understand that under our economic system we must and we should do everything we can to improve and strengthen the insurance marketplace. A state-owned insurance company is not the answer.

Wolfe: Have you done research on this issue as far as reform measures adopted and implemented in other States? And, have any other States been able to effectively help individuals and small businesses with their insurance reform measures? If so, what reform measures from other States do you think might be beneficial in Alabama.

Brooks: When I was first elected in 2006 I spent most of my first year in the Senate surveying the insurance reform ideas of others and surveying what a number of other states had done. I found two basic models. First, the Florida model basically meant that Florida started a state-owned insurance company. Under this approach the budget of the State of Florida could be significantly and negatively impacted in the event of a catastrophic event.
An example of the competing approach was the reform enacted by South Carolina. South Carolina primarily sought to improve and promote the private marketplace. In its broad omnibus bill South Carolina included a restructuring of its residual carrier (wind pool), added greater consumer representation on the board of its wind pool, created tax incentives to encourage the expansion of coverages, and added incentives to strengthen existing homes, among many other ideas. Many of the bills I have pursued in Alabama were influenced by the South Carolina approach.

Wolfe: To date, what do you consider as your best accomplishment on the issue of insurance reform?

Brooks: It would be hard to single out one item as a "best accomplishment". However, I suppose I am most proud of just how much the overall insurance reform effort has grown. We really are part of a broad movement now.

In the early days of our efforts there didn't seem to be that many people talking about this crisis. Today we have many people and groups working hard to find solutions. It would be an honor to think that I might have had at least a small role in helping to get that movement started. There certainly is still much work to be done, but sort of like the theme of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", I do believe that things are better right now versus what they might have been if we all had not been working on this issue.

There are parts of this insurance crisis that would be difficult for any single state to solve. For instance, the cost of international reinsurance is a significant factor in the escalating price of homeowner's insurance. "Reinsurance" is generally provided by large international entities over which Alabama alone would have little influence.

However, there are a number of things we can do in Alabama. Among the bills we've already passed are:

1. Authorization for the creation of captive insurance companies in the context of commercial or homeowner's insurance (this was previously prohibited under Alabama law).
2. The imposition of mandatory insurance premium discounts for homeowners that voluntarily retrofit (strengthen) existing homes or who build new homes to higher standards. This bill is now being used as a model in other states.
3. The creation of the "Strengthen Alabama Homes Act" which established a trust fund under the control of the Alabama Insurance Commissioner through which grants would eventually be available for homeowners to retrofit existing homes and get insurance discounts.
4. Codification of the state "wind pool".
5. Requirement that state filings by insurance companies seeking rate increases must be made public records.
6. Revisions to state regulations so that the state insurance commissioner could more quickly approve the entry of new surplus lines insurance companies into the Alabama market.

There are also a number of bills being pursued and new ideas being explored. They include:

1. Requiring industry transparency in terms of premiums, claims and losses.
2. Restructuring and strengthening the "wind pool" (AIUA).
3. Adoption of tax incentives to encourage private carriers to take individual policies out of the state "wind pool".
4. Evaluation of a tax-deferred catastrophe reserve to encourage the restoration of the market.
5. Studying the modeling systems used by the carriers to evaluate risks and premiums which the industry asserts are actuarially valid.
6. Evaluation of alternatives to strengthen the market to attract a larger industry presence and improve availability.
7. Consideration of alternative insurance products, such as larger deductible products with a catastrophic backstop.
8. Enactment of an insurance fraud law.

Wolfe: What do you think individuals and small business owners can do to help bring about meaningful insurance reform legislation in Alabama?

Brooks: The most important thing that individuals and small business owners can do is to continue to make sure that their elected and civic leaders know how strongly they feel about the need for reform. In 2011 the Governor's Affordable Homeowner's Insurance Commission met in Mobile and there was "standing room only". This sent a strong message to Montgomery about how strongly we feel about this problem. There will be many other such opportunities for us as individuals and in group settings. We must all take political ownership of this difficult issue. Our voices do make a difference.


For more information please visit,

Senator Ben Brooks

Monday, January 23, 2012

Alabama's Need for a New Constitution

The following article is from Karlos Finley who currently serves on the Board for Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform

(News from the Constitution Revision Commission)
It's hard to find any reasonable person who'll make a serious defense of Alabama's decrepit Constitution. It's the longest in the world, it has been amended more than 850 times, it centers most all the power in the state in special-interest-controlled Montgomery and binds local governments.

For some time, The Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform has lobbied for some action, any action, to bring the state’s complex, cumbersome Constitution under control. Their preferred method to do so is a popularly elected constitutional convention. This was how the 1901 Constitution was created in the first place. Opponents of this plan claimed an election would lead to special interests taking over the convention and, thus, writing the new constitution. But it should be noted that it was not so much fear that special interests would dominate the convention. Instead, it was fear by some special interests that interests other than their own would prevail. That gets us to the first fundamental point about constitutional reform that we must understand. The state Constitution protects a wide range of special interests, so it stands to reason that special interests from agriculture to education would be wary of changes they could not control. Those changes would be in the state’s antiquated, inadequate and regressive system of raising revenue. Propertied interests would not want changes in the way the state taxes property. Education interests would not want changes in the way revenue is divided.
Enter the state Legislature and the 16-member Constitutional Revision (not reform) Commission.

And, to make sure the commission does not tamper with what is really wrong with the Constitution, tax reform is off the table. So, why bother? Because there is more wrong with the Constitution than taxes. Although business groups, like other special interests, opposed a constitutional convention, they also understood that matters such as local control and decentralization needed to be addressed. So they threw their support behind the commission plan that is in place today. Despite the limitations placed on it, the Constitutional Revision Commission is a step in the right direction. The commission will rewrite 11 of the constitution's 18 articles to put before the Legislature and voters. It leaves untouched the taxation article, which includes limits born of the 1901 convention that keeps a lid on property taxes. Those provisions contribute mightily to Alabama having one of the nation's most unjust tax systems.
Federal Judge Lynwood Smith wrote in his 854-page ruling that Alabama's property tax system does not violate the U.S. Constitution, however Smith practically begs for a federal lawsuit that challenges the validity of the Alabama Constitution because, as has been well-documented, supporters stole the referendum that approved it. The 1901 Constitution is the state's fundamental charter, "only through fraud, ballot theft, economic and physical intimidation and unmitigated corruption," Smith wrote.

In an October Revision Commission meeting Mobile Republican Sen. Ben Brooks, a commission member, wondered whether Jefferson County could have avoided its crisis with "more liberal home rules," the ability of Alabama cities and counties to have limited autonomy to pass laws without needing the approval of the Legislature. Sonny Brasfield, Executive Director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, told him the fight over the county's occupational tax showed how hard it is for counties to solve problems on their own. "I think that if the Jefferson County Commission had more authority, they wouldn't have to be up here seeking an answer to the problem," Brasfield said. Some, including lawmakers, have portrayed Jefferson County as a poster child for why counties don't need any more power. The way the constitution reads currently, we can't amend local laws once they get advertised.. We can't debate a bill, find a middle ground, and can't improve it as the legislative process goes along. Brasfield said the system fosters horrible local laws. Jefferson County found out the hard way what happens when the Legislature bucks the process. In 2009, lawmakers passed a new county occupational tax to replace one that courts had ruled invalid. But it, too, was struck down because lawmakers changed the bill from what had been advertised. Finding a better way for local elected officials to make local decisions... not arguing over taxing authority, should be the focus of the revision commission's work, Brasfield said. "I don't want us to get distracted from reaching the conclusion we need, which is change," he said. The local government and its voters would decide which option for change they prefer. What shouldn't be an option is the current silliness. Argue, if you will, that Jefferson County having mucked up so badly makes it the perfect case against home rule. But fixing that mess is the perfect case for it. As Commissioner Brasfield points out, "Does it make sense that the Alabama Legislature has to be called into special session to deal with Jefferson County's financial problems? Should senators have to come from Mobile and Huntsville to Montgomery to work on a solution for Jefferson County?

Alabama's Constitution Revision Commission met Wednesday, January 18, 2012 for the last time before the 2012 legislative session to discuss home rule; while proposals were discussed to give local governments new powers. Brasfield presented the commission with five recommendations for county government. Craig Baab, a senior fellow with Alabama Appleseed, proposed giving counties limited home rule, with an option for counties to opt out or to repeal it. Baab said the centralized government created by the 1901 constitution "doesn't serve the people well." Any changes proposed by the commission would be submitted to the Legislature in the form of constitutional amendments. Should the Legislature approve the changes, the amendments would be submitted to voters for approval.

The proposals, however, drew strong criticism from several people who spoke at the meeting. Supporters of home rule were equally adamant that zoning power would allow counties to guide their development and protect property owners from potentially ruinous neighbors. The commission is reviewing 11 of the 16 articles of Alabama's 1901 Constitution. The commission will not address Article XI, which addresses taxation. The commission late last year approved changes to remove the racist language and changes to the banking and corporations articles. The Legislature should consider those proposals during the next regular session.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 is the Best Online Attorney Directory

The cyber geeks at NetNews have rated as the best online attorney locating service. (See article below.) All three attorneys at BF&W have the highest rating possible from It's a great site for legal consumers.

AVVO.COM: Best Online Attorney Locating Service
NetNews.Net - December 1, 2011
-NetNews.Net © In the fast paced world of internet searching, one of the most congested search areas for internet users is in the area of locating a lawyer. The world wide web has done a wonderful job of bringing lawyers and lawyer locating services to our finger tips, but maybe, just maybe it’s brought consumers too much information.

A simple non-scientific review of internet searches for attorney locating services brings forth listings of well over 1,000 such services not to mention hundreds of paid ads flopped and pixelated throughout the pages. Add to this confusion the fact that many of the attorney directories on the internet and/or attorney locating services require the attorney to "buy-in" to receive a favorable listing or ranking and you begin to see the internet consumers dilemma when searching for an attorney.

But fear not, your friends at NetNews.Net have searched, reviewed and analyzed these digital repositories of legal service providers, a/k/a shark holding pens, and found that one of these services rises above the rest and warrants our designation as: The Best Online Attorney Locating Service. Obviously if you read the headline you know we are giving this distinguished designation to Before making the points that led to this conclusion, readers should know two important facts: One, our research is non-scientific but all attempts have been made to analyze and review the online attorney locating services from the perspective of the reasonable internet user who brings forth his or her common sense when searching the internet for information. Two, has paid us to write this review. Not true but it was too easy of a joke to drop in. We have not been paid for this review and as with all reviews, we are simply trying to aid and assist our cyber-peers.

OK, with all joking and tongue-in-cheek commentary aside, why is the best online attorney locating service currently on the internet? Simple, besides offering an ability to "locate" an attorney it combines what we consider the three best qualities of these type services into one web site. These three quality factors are 1) Ratings, 2) Reviews and 3) Q&A Forum. Too many of the online directories we reviewed had none of these quality features. Many others were obviously "buy-in" sites with limited listings and information and featuring only those attorneys who paid for their exclusive listing. We liken these type buy-in sites to your late night sleazy Personal Injury TV ads .... we give these type sites high marks under the "ambulance chasing" category. Several of the other sites we reviewed had one or two of what we considered as the quality factors and they make our "Honorable Mention" roll below., nor any of the other "Honorable Mention" services, require an attorney to pay to be listed. The listing is free; however, many offer upgraded listings or services for the attorney for a price. However, very important for us in our review was the fact that the listing, and in the case of, the rating, is free. So let’s now review all three quality factors offered by in a little more detail.

Ratings: Attorneys are assigned a rating by on a scale of 1-10. Ten being the "Superb" and the highest level. Their web site does not disclose specifically how it calculates the attorney ratings that are assigned but it does indicate career accomplishments by the lawyer such as legal publications, speaking engagements and affiliations with professional organizations are factors in the rating process. The other factor in the ratings that we like, is that tells you if the lawyer has ever had any disciplinary action brought against him or her by a Bar Association. Not only do we think this is important information for consumers, but we applaud as being the only online directory we reviewed that had the guts to post this information. Very big kudos and big khonies. Finally, reports that peer endorsements (see discussion below) do not factor into the rating they assign an attorney. Quite honestly, we have a hard time buying this since we all know about the "good-ol’ boy network in the legal fraternity. I.e, "you say I’m a great lawyer and I’ll say you’re a great lawyer even though were both really worthless piles of cow dung and the public will never be the wiser." Despite our suspicions on this point, we’ll take their word on this point and give them credit for not allowing an attorney to up his or her rating by having all of his or her peers provide glowing endorsements.

Peer & Client Reviews: As mentioned the site allows for clients and peers to review and comment on the lawyers skills and services. Client reviews through out the various attorney profiles we reviewed often appeared forced or fake, maybe we’re just cynical but the fact that the site allows former clients a place to comment on the attorney’s services is a plus. The peer endorsements from other attorneys is a nice feature but we are skeptical about compliments about legal skills published by other attorneys. It’s akin to a conversation among sharks: "Hey your teeth look extra sharp and dangerous today. Why thank you. Your teeth are looking exceptionally vicious as well." Again a few other online attorney locating services allow for these type peer and client reviews and these features are certainly a positive However, within this category we also include reviews and comments made in response to an attorneys participation in the Questions and Answers forum of the web site. When an attorney responds to a posted question it becomes part of the attorney’s profile. The person who submitted the question has an opportunity to review and rate the response and add commentary. By reviewing the attorney’s responses to questions, you are able to glean more insight into the attorney. You can also see if others thought the attorney offered helpful or meaningful information in his or her response. If you’re going to have to hire an attorney, don’t you want one that is going to help fix whatever legal mess you’ve found yourself in? We think being able to access and review the attorneys responses to questions may be more beneficial than the client and peer reviews.

Questions & Answers: As just mentioned besides offering a process to locate an attorney in your area for a specific type legal question or problem and offering a rating service for the attorney, the site also has a very easy functioning Q&A Forum. To use the forum you have to register as a user and establish a password but it is free. Once you’ve done this then just fire away with your legal question. Questions stay open for about a week and you get an e-mail notification when an attorney has responded to your question. It’s free. The site has parameters and warnings about reliance on free legal advice but it also offers tips on how to ask or word questions.

In our opinion, this third feature is what makes the overall best online attorney locating service.

In conclusion if you want to use the internet to help address a legal issue and/or locate an attorney, we recommend In our opinion it is by far the best and most comprehensive and user friendly online attorney directory on the internet.