I have been a bit preoccupied as of late (new baby at home, tending to clients, etc.), so I just happened to notice that I have not yet reviewed my new edition of the Washington State Bar News. The Bar News is a publication put out by the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) that chronicles local attorney news, discusses current legal topics, and provides various advertisements and information for attorneys in Washington.
However, for me (as with probably most attorneys) the most important and compelling part of the Bar News is looking to see if any attorneys have been suspended or disbarred in the "Discipline Notices" section. Call it our Page Six or TMZ type dirt for lawyers - like everyone, we attorneys all enjoy good gossip and potentially shocking news about others in our profession. Not only are the disciplinary notices highlighted in the Bar News, they are also maintained and chronicled on the WSBA website via the lawyer directory. The lawyer directory allows you to look up any Washington State lawyer and see whether or not they have had a past disciplinary action.
Hence, if you need to hire an attorney, you should always check the lawyer directory to find out more info on your attorney - e.g. to see if they are actively licensed, whether they have been previously suspended or disbarred. Surely mistakes happen, but if you have concerns and some flags have been raised, perhaps its worth checking out another attorney, or getting additional referrals.
This same logic holds true for construction contractors. In Washington, construction contractors are required to be licensed and bonded pursuant to state statute (RCW 18.27). The purpose of the Contractor's Registration Statute is to help protect the general public from unreliable, fraudulent, financially irresponsible, or incompetent contractors. In the same fashion as a lawyer directory through the WSBA, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries also has a contractor directory. This entails you can look up any business or individual performing work as a contractor in Washington (provided they are licensed,which is required under law) - and it will reveal whether or not the contractor has a currently active license or whether they have any past summons and complaints filed against them.
If a contractor is unlicensed or has a suspended license, you should not be allowing them to do work for you (though it could be for free, because unlicensed contractors are not permitted to sue you - though it is not worth taking this risk, so do not do it). There is generally a good reason some contractors do not have a license and it is usually because they perform cheap and crappy work. Hence, when you pay for cheap and crappy work, you will end up having to do the work over, which will cost you more money in the long run. This happens, trust me. You do not want to find this out the hard way. The hard way is realizing you probably paid this unlicensed contractor in cash (because they want money under the table), they already spent the money and will not give it back, and you will have a near impossible job of trying to get it back (i.e. they are judgment or collection proof - meaning they have no money or they file for bankruptcy).
The point here is do you research before hiring someone. Whether it is a lawyer or construction contractor. There are tools and resources out there to allow you to do your homework - use them, seek referrals, and do your research.