Just got this tweet from the Bar:

So I went back to the page to check it out. It seems to be working as advertised.

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Web development is hard. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Just running my own firm website, managing “the SEO” or whatever that is, writing blog posts, and keeping the site looking updated and user friendly feels like a Sisyphean task. I get it.

So in that context I bring up this hyper-specific problem I found with the Florida Bar’s website this morning while I was researching something else: the way the site directs consumers to search for Board-Certified lawyers is incredibly misleading.

Here’s what I mean:

When consumers go to the Florida Bar’s main page, they can get to this page (however they can get to it, there’s about five different ways of getting there and none of them are straightforward) which appears to let them search for “Certified Lawyers.”

Seems straightforward enough. From the heading it certainly looks like if you need to search for a Board Certified lawyer you’ve come to the right place. Let’s see if that’s true by looking for a Board Certified lawyer in my city:

Whoa! It looks like there are 7,392 Board Certified lawyers in Tampa according to the Bar’s site. Well, maybe 7,391 live ones since the first guy is dead. But this can’t be right – the Bar itself says there are only about 4,800 Board Certified lawyers in the entire state. Maybe it’s counting dead ones?

Let’s try another experiment. For the record, as of today, February 4, 2016, I am not Board Certified in any practice area by the Florida Bar. Let me repeat that because the Florida Bar has a habit for disciplining lawyers over even claiming to specialize in an area of law if you’re not Board Certified, so, ahem:

For the record, as of today, February 4, 2016, I, Samuel Noah Harden, Bar No.: 069017, am not Board Certified in any practice area by the Florida Bar.

But do I show up on the Bar’s Board Certified search page?

Honestly I don’t know if affirmatively writing that I (who, as of today, February 4, 2016, is not Board Certified in any practice area by the Florida Bar) appear on the Board Certified search results page is something the Bar will discipline me over, since as of today, February 4, 2016, I am not Board Certified in any practice area by the Florida Bar.

The fact is this search page is incredibly deceptive for consumers who get to it. The heading tells consumers they are searching a directory of “Certified Lawyers” but certainly doesn’t return results from such a directory.

Why is this so important?

Two big reasons.

First, the Board Certification process that the Bar does is pretty intense. To be Board Certified in one area of law you have to practice law for five years, pass a test, take extra continuing legal education courses, have a number of trials in that area, and pass an examination specifically written for that area. The Bar does this to identify who the “experts” are both to give lawyers braggin’ rights and to be able to give members of the public a way to find the true experts in a specific area of law. After all the effort the Bar puts into protecting the idea of Board Certification from non-certified lawyers who claim to be “specialists,” it should give some thought and care to how a search directory on its own website misrepresents who actually is Board Certified.

Second, the Bar is where (hopefully) members of the public look for the voice of authority about lawyers. If the Bar says something is true the public is going to believe it. So it’s concerning to see the Bar’s website be designed in a way that confuses people looking for a lawyer. There are so many websites out there claiming to list what attorneys are “super” or “best” or a “pro” or whatever marketers can dream up to sell to hungry attorneys looking for a shiny badge, a plaque, and a backlink. The public should be able to trust that the information the Bar puts out on the internet is correct. When the Florida Bar maintains a page that says “search for Board Certified lawyers here” it should search for Board Certified lawyers.

So dear Florida Bar: please fix this. Don’t let consumers come to your site and get confused or misled.

OddEric Readinger