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I want to review the trial experience of a particular plaintiff lawyer in Ontario. Where can I get this information?

. . . no answer

Then how does one look up a lawyer's trial record in other jurisdictions around the world?

Maybe I can adapt the method to Ontario.

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    In the US federal court you could try to search by the attorney of record by searching something like RECAP for the last name of the attorney. You might find filings and such. Problem is the person who signs isn't necessarily the person with the "trial experience." I'd suggest that the way understand a lawyer's trial experience is to ask the attorney.
    – jqning
    Mar 25, 2016 at 4:17
  • @jqning That might be the answer I use. Now, if I were a defence lawyer wanting to size up an opponent, could I just boldly ask, 'What cases have you tried recently?' Mar 26, 2016 at 2:41

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+50

Sounds like you are doing this search surreptitiously. If not, the process is the same, except for asking the lawyer himself.

Regardless of the actual value of knowing a lawyer's trial experience - the value and knowledge of an attorney is much more than trial experience, and the best indicators of experience and judgement are the least public aspects of a lawyer's work - there are two major sources of information: public search engines and court record systems. Your searches will yield a lot of raw data in terms of personal names, case names and legal documents that you will need to use your own judgement when analyzing.

Google: Best thing to do is start with Google and the lawyer's name. That may sound simplistic, but a simple Google search will give you any firms he is associated with, any news articles with his name in conjunction with trial cases, professional affiliations, and more. Once you find any references, you will find case names, names of past clients, and more. Search again. Follow all the rabbit trails.

Google doesn't typically show search results from commercial databases and library catalogs. Most public libraries have access to commercial journal and magazine databases that cover thousands of titles, including law journals, as well as databases of historical newspapers; if not, university libraries do. You may need to go to a state or provincial law college to access legal journals.

Contact the people - past clients, etc. - you find and ask them about the lawyer and the trials in question. I doubt very much any lawyer will have anything more to say that you need to talk to him yourself.

Bear in mind that if you misrepresent yourself to people you contact about the lawyer - you say you're looking for a long lost cousin on the pretext of finding out information about the lawyer and his cases - you're treading a fine legal line called pretexting. Pretext is legally defined as a reason for an action which is false while offered to cover up the true intention. If you pretext, it can come back to bite you.

Court records: Find the court record system for your jurisdiction. These will greatly vary, and vary between civil and criminal courts. Google will lead you to the website of the court jurisdiction in question; there will be different methods of access to the court records systems.

The big problem you're up against is that many cases are settled out of court, and there will be no records in court systems. And if there are records, you will have to parse the decisions to find out if the lawyer in question was actually involved.

As a last resort (other than asking the lawyer himself), hire an unemployed just-graduated law student to research for you :)

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  • Actually my search isn't necessarily surreptitious. I'm evaluating a small number of potential hires (they know it) and trial experience is one of the criteria I'm looking at. Mar 26, 2016 at 2:50
  • If that's the case, talk to them directly. They may try to sell you on their services, depending how how much they want to take your case. You can still do research on what they tell you. Mar 26, 2016 at 3:22
  • I settled on a slightly different answer for myself. I’ll post it separately. But yours comes closest (thank you) and I give you the bounty. Mar 28, 2016 at 21:26
  • Thanks! Research can be a lot of work checking all the angles. Mar 29, 2016 at 14:16
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I am absolutely not qualified in any kind of law, and I don't have any experience with the legal system. However, if you change "experience" to "record" on Google, it will yield this answer to a similar question:

https://www.quora.com/How-can-you-find-an-attorneys-record-of-wins-and-losses-in-litigation

It makes some good points, and also provides some food for thought on the litigation process and the possibility that trial experience itself may not be the end-all-be-all of an attorney. I hope this helps! :)

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    Might this be better as a comment than an answer? Currently, it seems to be a link-only answer, meaning that while valuable, the information will be gone if the link rots. You might want to edit in the relevant information.
    – HDE 226868
    Mar 27, 2016 at 2:39
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All of the responses were helpful. The eventual approach I took isn’t much different from BlueDogRanch’s answer. Here’s what worked for me:

1. Search the web

Search by name. Filter by terms such as ‘lawyer’, ‘attorney’, ‘counsel’, ‘advocate’ and ‘law firm’.

For one lawyer I looked at, this alone was enough. His reputation was so well established and his trial experience so widely reported, there was no point in looking further.

2. Search the court records

The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) covers the provincial, territorial and federal courts. For non-Canadian jurisdictions, see CanLII’s list of other countries’ databases, or the Free Access to Law Movement’s (FALM) member list.

Jury trials aren’t recorded in CanLII, at least not for Ontario’s civil courts. Instead what I found were secondary judgements on appeal, on apportioning legal costs, and so forth. These after-judgements are numerous — apparently the rule rather than the exception — so they open a window at least partly onto the original trials.

Search for the lawyer’s name. I think anyone with extensive trial experience will show up.

3. Read the marketing material of the lawyer’s firm

The last thing I looked at for one lawyer, a brochure printed by his firm, was full of citations of past cases and judgements, which I could easily verify.

4. Ask the lawyer

Commenter jqning suggests, “the way understand a lawyer’s trial experience is to ask the attorney.”

Actually, I never had to resort to this, but it sounds like a sensible fallback.

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  • Often Linked In, or Martindale Hubble (a lawyer directory), or a firm website will have a short list of the firms at which the attorney has worked, the nature of the attorney's practice, and when the attorney graduated from law school. The licensing agency will usually have a year of admission to practice. By examining the practices of the places where the lawyer worked, you can usually get a good idea. Also, actual courtroom time varies by type of litigation practice - criminal lawyers are constantly in court, collection lawyers almost as much but with fewer trials, other lawyers far less.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 21, 2019 at 6:59

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