Short Guide To Key Lawyer Directories and Rankings

Jun 26th, 2013 | Law Firm Marketing, Legal Marketing in Brief

Generally speaking, we advise firms maximize profiles and rankings on the platforms below. That’s because independent surveys, our own surveys, and our interviews with in-house counsel, c-level executives and business owners indicate these are commonly relied upon by prospective clients and referring counsel. Of course, how much effort and which directories and rankings you focus more time and money on depend on the nature of your firm’s practice and the goals set forth in your law firm marketing plan.

Where To Find It: Its list is often published in a local lifestyle magazine, as its own publication mailed to all lawyers in your state, and online at

What It Is: An annual online and print listing of the top 5 percent of the eligible attorney population for Super Lawyers, and 2.5 percent of the eligible attorney population for Rising Stars. Another 500 lawyers who score below Super Lawyers, but who are 40 years old or younger or have 10 fewer years of practice are designated Rising Stars.

Who Can Be Listed: Attorneys are eligible to be listed if they’ve been listed before or if another lawyer nominates them. By nominating someone else, attorneys also become part of the eligible pool.

How It’s Made: The research department reviews the candidate pool and scores them based on 12 categories pool and scores them based on 12 categories, including verdicts, settlements, transactions, representative clients and honors and awards. Some of the categories are valued higher than others, but Super Lawyers won’t reveal its formula for scoring.
Picks are sorted into practice areas and sent through a “blue ribbon review,” a panel of candidates with the highest point totals in each practice area. Those panelists rank a list of candidates from their practice areas on a scale of one to 10.

A best practice is to make sure all of your firm’s news releases and articles are submitted to their research department throughout the year. This helps build lawyer ratings.
Don’t let the name fool you– people and other lawyers pay attention to this ranking. And if anyone tells you this is “pay to play” ranking, well, they’re just flat wrong.

Where To Find It: and

What It Is: An ongoing print and online directory listing of attorneys by practice area. Also lists firms and solicits client ratings. Client ratings are an oft-controversial subject in many firms and beyond the scope of this article. Both subscribers and nonsubscribers to LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell can get reviews, but a fee is charged to display lawyer ratings on a website and in marketing materials. This is the home of “AV”, the longest-standing arguably most credible rating in the business.

Who Can Be Listed:  Attorneys are eligible after three years of bar admission. They only need provide their practice area and bar admission year. To request a review, attorneys must also submit at least 18 peer references from lawyers listed in the directory which are outside their firm.

How It’s Made: Reviews are given by both request and random selection of attorneys according to their geographic location and practice area. All reviews are anonymous. Attorneys are rated via an online survey on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest) in five areas: legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment, communication and legal experience. Reviewers selected by Martindale-Hubbell are already listed.
Reviews are given in three tiers, depending on an attorney’s overall score. Only attorneys with average scores of 4.5 to 5.0 can enter the highest AV Preeminent tier. Those with averages of 3.0 to 4.4 receive the BV Distinguished rating and the rest receive a rating showing that the attorney at least meets a “very high criteria of general ethical standing”.

NOTE: Getting an adequate response to establish or improve an existing rating has become more difficult in the past 24 months following Martindale’s decision to make it ratings questionnaire more elaborate. This has become of source of some frustration to lawyers and in the marketing community of late.

When It Appears: September annually

Where To Find It: Several years ago they partnered with US News & World Report to create Best Law Firms rankings by practice area in addition to the list of The Best Lawyers in America which is now called simply Best Lawyers.

What It Is: Although Best Lawyers doesn’t set quotas on the number of attorneys per jurisdiction, they list an average of 3.5 percent of the total attorneys in the U.S. Like Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers is based on peer reviews. (Firm rankings are handled through client interviews.)

Who Can Be Listed: Attorneys on the previous year’s list are automatically entered and are also asked to include names of peers who were not yet nominated. Marketing departments can also submit nominations, selectively. Up to three names can be submitted on the form and nominees not included in the list remain on the ballot for the next two editions.

How It’s Made: Attorneys on the previous year’s list get to vote on attorneys from their respective practice areas and regions. More than 30,000 attorneys evaluate nominees on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the question, “If you could not handle a case yourself, to whom would you refer it?” with 5 being the highest.

Evaluations are compiled, averaged and checked against state bar association sanction lists and ethics committees. The filtering process is different for each geographic region. Required score averages vary for each region and in the case of “close calls,” Best Lawyers editors will also take into consideration comments made by other attorneys.

Lawyers we know and represent who have been named to this list report it changes how other lawyers view them and improves the quality and scope of their case flow.

Where To Find It:

What It Is: An online ranking of attorneys in every state. AVVO’s rating system is based on public information and are not influenced by advertising on the service, as some believe. For example, an associate several years into a practice who makes an effort can have a higher AVVO rating than a senior partner at a large law firm who does not.

How It’s Made: You have an AVVO profile. AVVO created it using public information from the state bar licensing database and other legal credentialing organizations.

Your AVVO rating depends on the amount of information provided by third parties and by you. It is displayed on a scale of a 1.0– “Extreme Caution” to 10.0– “Superb”. Ratings are given using a mathematical model derived from an attorney’s background including practice areas, ethics, client reviews and past experience.

AVVO ratings cannot be changed or deleted, but scores may be increased when attorneys provide more information about themselves. Clients and fellow attorneys can also give their own separate endorsements that show up alongside and boost a lawyer’s overall AVVO rating.

Those lawyers about which there is little public information, commonly in-house counsel, receive a non-numerical “No Concern” rating. But those with ethics violations or other disciplinary actions will receive a non-numerical “Attention” rating.

Who Is Listed: Creating an improved profile with AVVO – short for “avvocato or avvocatessa,” the Italian words for lawyer – can be done at no cost. All that’s required to begin enhancing an existing profile is some basic confirming information.

Don’t ignore your AVVO rating. It probably shows up on page one of Google search results when your name and city are typed into a browser search bar.

Where to Find It:

What It Is: An annual print and online listing of about 1 percent of total attorneys in your state. Unlike Best Lawyers or Super Lawyers, client, not peer, interviews and reviews drive Chambers.

Who Can Be Listed: Firms, not individual attorneys, drive the process, by submitting lengthy nominations including information about the firm’s recent laterals, departures and highlights of the year’s biggest cases. A spreadsheet of up to 15 references should also be included.

How It’s Made: After submissions are received, the Chambers USA research team conducts telephone interviews with clients and other references. Some factors taken into consideration: volume, marketplace commentary, info gleaned from interviews and the complexity and size of last year’s work.

The research team looks at practice area-specific factors such as industry-significant cases, expansion in team size or the development of new areas of specialty. Chambers USA annually interviews more than 16,000 clients and 10,000 private-practice attorneys.

After the interviews, selections get whittled down to a select few attorneys separated by practice area, which usually amounts to about 1 percent of total attorneys per state. The top attorneys are ranked in “bands” from 1 to 6, with 1 being the highest.

These are top lists from all of the data we’ve seen as of this writing.

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