Thoughts on the proliferation and value of lawyer ratings
July 2, 2010
My thoughts on lawyer and law firm ratings and directories just given to a reporter writing about Chambers USA.
Why has Chambers has so quickly established widespread credibility? Super Lawyers and Martindale have programs in place to build their brands. The latter is even doing TV advertising to enhance the value and reach of their ratings and directories. Best Lawyers in America also discretely markets its brand. Chambers seems to do it less aggressively than everyone else right now.
I think the answer largely lies in the research on purchase habits of affluent and educated American consumers. The research reveals that when faced with a selection with which they associate a high degree of risk—hiring a CPA, lawyer, financial advisor, banker, or selecting a doctor or dentist— affluent and educated buyers most always seek personal recommendations.
Comparatively, the Chambers interview process is closest of all to a personal recommendation.
(The guy who wrote the bestsellers The Millionaire Mind and The Millionaire Next Door published this information in another book on networking with the affluent and their advisers.)
The proliferation of directories and lists like Chambers has not been without controversy. Many firms and lawyers have openly resisted them, found the participation process increasingly burdensome. Most all have eventually relented and participated on some level and in more than one list. Taken together, several lists can give even the most sophisticated buyer of legal services valuable information that may differentiate providers. That said, listings like this are no substitute for a robust online presence and detailed biography on your firm’s Web site— think Google.
Our major concern, and that of many lawyers and firms we writing marketing plans for across the country, is what we are calling “list fatigue”. How many times every year can you ask the same lawyers in other firms and the same clients of yours to accept interviews about you and your firm, or to fill out surveys on your behalf?
The lists make the practice of law more transparent and that’s good for everyone who hires lawyers or makes referrals.
The explosion of legal industry and lawyer lists over the past decade now makes it incumbent upon the publishers to educate users in how the lists are developed, monitored and checked. The quality and value of the lists varies like those of any industry. Expect more marketing of all of these lists in the future, not less.
Also recognize that participation in one list likely is not enough. You need a mix of lists.
The overall demand for legal services far exceeds the service capacity of all of the lawyers on any single list or in any single directory. Therein lies the case for the participation in and value of the other lists. Location, area of practice, size of firm and nature of client also create good reasons to appear on particular lists, and not on others.