LANDMARK SURVEY: Ratings affect most lawyers when hiring or making a referral to another lawyer

Dec 6th, 2016 | Uncategorized

The endless debate about whether superlative ratings affect lawyers in private practice when making a referral to or hiring another lawyer in private practice prompted us to develop a survey, the results of which reveal ratings do make a difference. And, that’s true for young and old lawyers in firms both large and small.

We polled 203 lawyers at bar meetings we attended, at presentations we made about law firm marketing, at conventions and from our database.  Those lawyers were from nearly every state in the country.  From them we learned the following:

    • 65 percent of lawyers in private practice we polled are “positively influenced” by ratings and rankings when hiring or making a referral to another lawyer in private practice.
    • Of those who were positively affected by such ratings, Martindale-Hubbell® was on top and relied upon by 51 percent.  All other ratings (Best Lawyers®, Super Lawyers®, AVVO®, Chambers®, to name some) were relied upon by less than one third of the lawyers who said such ratings affected their decision.  Some ratings were relied upon far less than we anticipated.  That was striking in light of the time we know marketers and lawyers spend earning the relevant ratings (and those that aren’t) and then fending off advertising sales representative telephone calls.

We also asked if the absence of any particular rating and or ranking “hindered” a lawyer hiring another lawyer or making a referral.  It does.  Which ratings had that effect will affect budgeting of both time and money at the firms we advise.

As well, we asked if membership in the various colleges, such as the American College of Trial Lawyers or American College of Real Estate Lawyers, or election by peers to organizations such as the International Association of Defense Counsel or Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, positively influenced retention or a referral.  They do, and to significant percentage of the lawyers we polled.

You may wonder why we only asked about hiring of and referrals to lawyers in private practice to other lawyers in private practice.  First, BTI’s 2011 survey, How Client’s Hire: the Role of Legal Directories and Online Lawyer Profiles, answered that question regarding general counsel.  Our results for lawyers in firms mirror the results of BTI’s survey.  Second, when we are writing and helping our clients then implement a law firm marketing plan, we are told the best paying and most intellectually challenging cases come from other lawyers.

We are presenting the results of our survey to clients as we update their plans and budgets this fall.  If your firm is interested in having us present the results at a firm retreat or to a partnership meeting, contact us.

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