Saturday, September 22, 2012

Law Firm Rankings: Are You A Player?


Legal rankings often elicit strong reactions from attorneys. I had one attorney tell me he was calling Super Lawyers to tell them to remove his name from the list and another said she was embarrassed because she was not ranked.

Are legal rankings a meaningless game or can legal directories like Best Lawyers and Chambers help attorneys win new business? In today’s market, winning clients is no game and legal rankings are one tactic that can help influence clients.

Why You Should Play
Being ranked a Best Lawyer can make the difference when a potential client is comparing you against other attorneys. A 2011 BTI Consulting survey on legal directories reported that 1 in 2 in-house legal decision makers said they were less likely to hire an attorney NOT listed in Best Lawyers/US News, Chambers or Martindale‐Hubbell.

Legal rankings like Super Lawyers and Avvo also help with search engine optimization (SEO) and are usually high on the list in Google search results.

Who Should Play
The directories are not just for large firms. Most have practice specific categories and geographic listings that provide an equal playing field for firms of all sizes, including solo practitioners and smaller law firms.

How to Play
Unlike in Monopoly, you cannot buy a spot on the board. You must to take an active role in the process by preparing and submitting a nomination. 

Here is an overview of some of the popular directories and information about the ranking process. The nomination forms and deadlines can be found on the directory websites.

  • Super Lawyers sends out emails announcing that voting is open. Be sure to upload your bio and vote.
  • Best Lawyers lists individual attorneys and is based on the results of peer review votes by other lawyers. You cannot nominate yourself but your marketing director, other attorneys or clients can nominate you. Be patient, it may take a couple of years of having your name on the voting list.
  • Best LawFirms/US News is one of the new rankings. To be eligible for consideration, at least one attorney in the firm must be ranked as a Best Lawyer. Firms are ranked based on their answers to a survey, which includes firm demographics, client successes, client references and Best Lawyer ratings. Firms are ranked in various practice areas and by geography. Law firms of all sizes are ranked by Best Law Firms.
  • Chambers USA ranks law firms and individual attorneys by practice area and geographic area. You do not need to submit a nomination to be ranked but it is helpful. Submissions include a summary of up to ten notable successes in the past year and up to 15 references. Be sure to include the maximum number of references.
  • Legal 500’s submission process is similar to Chambers. Submissions include a summary of up to ten notable successes in the past year and an unlimited number of references. Firms must submit a new nomination every year. While all size firms are encouraged to enter submissions, most of the firms ranked are large firms.
  • ACC ValueIndex was an initiative started by the Association of Corporate Counsel to rank law firm’s value. According to the ACC website, it is no longer active.
  • Martindale-HubbellPeer Review Ratings (AV/BV) are based on interviews with other members of the bar and judiciary. Attorneys can initiate a review by submitting a minimum of 18 references from outside their firm. The references must be listed on martindale.com.
  • Avvo, the "Angie’s List" for lawyers, calculates a score for attorneys based on publicly available information and client and peer endorsements.  Avvo’s ratings draw frequent criticism from lawyers and marketing directors alike but Avvo ratings place high in search engines results and may influence less sophisticated buyers of legal services.

Bonus Points
Use the information you have compiled for your nominations to update your marketing materials. Add it to your website, practice group descriptions, attorney bios, newsletters and annual report.

Winning the Game
Attorneys may continue to disagree on the merits of these rankings but they have infiltrated the legal landscape and are not going away any time soon. Playing the game does not guarantee that you will win new clients, but not participating can make it harder.

An excerpt of this posting appeared in the September 13, 2012 issues of Massachusetts Lawyers WeeklyYou can hate the ranking game, but be a player

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