Most people in Washington face their legal problems alone. In fact, many have a problem that could benefit from a legal solution but either don’t realize it or can’t find the help they need. According to the 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study, 30% of Washingtonians who’ve sought legal help can’t afford it, 76% of those who experienced a civil legal problem do not get the help they need to solve it, and 65% of those who have a civil legal issue do not pursue help at all.
(Note: A civil legal problem usually involves a private dispute between people or organizations; people involved in civil legal matters do not have a right to legal representation. Criminal law usually involves individuals tried by the governing jurisdiction for breaking a law; people involved in a criminal proceeding have a right to legal counsel.) Being the regulator of the legal profession, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) cannot refer members of the public to lawyers; however, we do provide tools and resources to help you find one.
Recently, the Washington State Bar Association updated our Legal Directory — a searchable database of every legal professional in the state of Washington—to make it easier to use and with a few expanded features to provide additional information when you’re researching a lawyer.
Perhaps the first and most important piece of information you should know to begin your legal search is that every person who practices law in the state of Washington must be licensed and in good standing with the state bar. So even if you don’t begin your search with the Legal Directory, it is always a good practice to look up a legal professional before hiring him or her.
Read on to learn how to use the Legal Directory to find a lawyer and how to access additional resources to get connected with affordable legal help.
How to Access the WSBA Legal Directory
The WSBA Legal Directory connects you to a complete list of WSBA members’ professional information and discipline history.
It can be accessed from any page on wsba.org. On a desktop browser, you’ll find Legal Directory on the top right menu; if you’re on a mobile device, it will be on the top left.
From here, you can search for a WSBA member—lawyer, limited practice officer (LPO), or limited license legal technician (LLLT)—by first and last name. Each WSBA member has an online legal profile, which includes such information as their phone number, email address, website, license information, discipline history, practice areas, and volunteer work.
Advanced Search and How to Find a Lawyer in Washington
Using the “Advanced Search,” you will find far more options to find a lawyer or other legal professional who can meet your specific legal needs. To get to the Advanced Search, click the link at the bottom of the Legal Directory dropdown. Or enter the URL directly: http://www.mywsba.org/PersonifyEbusiness/LegalDirectory.aspx.
You can now search by much more than name:
- Practice Area: Look for legal professionals who specialize in specific areas of the law such as family law, employment law, bankruptcy law, estate planning, and many other specialties. For example, you need help with a divorce or child custody, you might search for family law practitioners.
- Eligible to Practice: Use the dropdown and select “yes” to only see listings of legal professionals who are currently licensed to practice law in the state of Washington.
- License Type: Using this menu you can search specifically for the type of legal professional you need based on the legal issue and your budget. It could be a lawyer for full legal representation, a LLLT who can assist and advise on certain family law matters on a lower fee, or a limited practice officer (LPO) who can manage real estate closings.
- WA County: Limit your search results to only those legal professionals in your county.
- City: Find lawyers in your city of residence.
- Language Other Than English: If there is a language barrier, you can search for lawyers who speak Spanish or other languages.
Try to narrow your search using multiple criteria such as those listed above or you might receive an unusably large number of results. For instance, a search for lawyers in King County will net 21,258 results! However, a search for employment lawyers in King County who are eligible to practice, who have an active license status, and who speak Spanish brings that down to just 69 results.
If, for example, you’re looking for a divorce lawyer and you live in Yakima:
- Go to the WSBA Legal Directory
- Under “License Type” select either lawyer or Limited License Legal Technician
- Select yes under “Eligible to Practice”
- Set the county to Yakima
- Set the practice area to family
- On the results page, sort by city to see listings for family law practitioners in Yakima and neighboring areas
Lawyer Referrals through County Bar Associations
You might also check with your local county bar association, a few of which provide referral programs. Check the County Bars in Washington page to find the association in your area as well as a link to its referral program, if one exists.
How to Find Free Legal Help
If your income is at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,950 per year for a household of one in 2020), you are eligible for state-funded legal help, according to the Washington Office of Civil Legal Aid. (In certain cases, you might be eligible if your income is as high as 200 percent of the federal poverty level.)
The WSBA also maintains a list of free resources on our Find Legal Help page.
How to Find Discounted Legal Help
If you do not qualify for free legal help, yet also can’t afford someone to represent you, you may be eligible for discounted legal representation through the Moderate Means Program.
If your annual household income is between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty level ($25,520 and $51,040, respectively, for a household of one in 2020), you can be referred to a legal professional who will provide reduced-fee assistance in family, housing, consumer, and employment law.
Fill out this online form to apply for discounted legal help through the Moderate Means Program.