Every now and then I’ll get a call from someone who is wanting my opinion on an attorney they are considering hiring. I usually ask what made them consider hiring that attorney. Some people say a friend/relative had a good experience with that lawyer. That’s usually a good sign. Others tell me they liked the lawyers website. Often a good sign as well. And many others tell me that they were impressed because the lawyer was rated highly by some service. Completely irrelevant!!!
There are a bunch of rating services out there. Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Leading Lawyers, etc. Most of the ones that I have found are run by a publishing company and one way or another list a ton of attorneys, almost all who are in private practice. They make money by getting the lawyers they choose and their law firms to pay for ads or updated profiles in their directories. It’s a win/win as the lawyer gets a shiny “accomplishment” and the publishing company makes a ton of money.
But I’m telling you that being picked for these lists means absolutely, positively, nothing. Some of the lawyers on these lists are incredible, others suck. But if you are in a big firm or become involved with the local Bar Association or other legal group, there is a great chance you’ll make it to one of these lists.
I have one lawyer friend from law school that was named a “Rising Star” three years in a row. Pretty impressive for her. But then consider that there are 142 attorneys at that law firm and 45 of them were picked as “Rising Stars.” The publication that picked them said that only 2.5% of lawyers get this distinction, but of course that includes attorneys who don’t practice in law firms, those that work as in house counsel, inactive attorneys, etc.
This same firm had 34 attorneys chosen by another publication as “leaders in their area of specialty.” In other words, if you practice for a long time and stay involved in the legal community, you are going to get an award.
Of course that law firm’s experience isn’t unusual. I quickly scanned the website of a leading personal injury law firm in Chicago. It’s an amazing firm, but almost every lawyer there has received some honor like “40 under 40” or other distinction. Sidley & Austin boasts of 171 attorneys being ranked as a leading lawyer for business. Of course this list doesn’t say that most businesses could never afford them. 63 Jenner & Block lawyers were named “Super Lawyers.” Scan almost any law firms website and you will see similar amazing honors if they have more than a handful of attorneys.
Many law firms I recommend have received these awards and you certainly don’t have to pay to get recognized. But as a consumer if you are choosing a lawyer based off this list you might as well throw darts at a wall. It will help you just the same.
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