Why You Shouldn’t Buy Supplemental Lawyer Ratings And Rankings Profiles In Major Publications

Jan 5th, 2012 | Law Firm Marketing

We do not recommend firms purchase added profiles of lawyers in the special supplements offered in prestigious local and national publications to further highlight lawyer peer-review rankings and ratings.

We make this recommendation despite it likely rankling some of our decades-long good relations and friendships with the raters– Super Lawyers®, Martindale-Hubbell® and The Best Lawyers in America® in particular– and with the lifestyle magazines and newspapers in which these added opportunities are increasingly becoming available. (Such is the lot of independent consultants.)

Here’s why: these sections receive no advance promotion. They are not highlighted, as some once were, on the front pages, covers or in tables of contents of the publications. (Remember when you saw a cover screaming: “Best Doctors in City! Page 28.”) These lists instead appear unannounced and wholly unsupported. They are simply unanticipated advertising inserts. Remember you will be on the list itself.

The reason supplements do not receive any advance support and are not be noted anywhere in the editorial (news) coverage to drive readers to them lies in publication industry regulations. Most every major newspapers, business journals, lifestyle and news magazines subscribe to highly codified, longstanding practices created of the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). These regs are designed to maintain news integrity and avoid advertising-editorial conflicts. They prohibit any advance notice or news coverage in support of content the publication’s editors do not control.

The magazines in which you may be asked to buy ad space to support a hard-earned prestigious ranking or rating may be quite well known, think Corporate Counsel or Forbes. That’s tempting. Our recommendation is the same in those instances. Due to the ASME restriction the lists are appearing unexpectedly and seemingly at random. I have been reading well-regarded trade publications I scour regularly and have run into these lists and asked myself: “Why is this here?” The placements are jarring. They are largely if not wholly unrelated to the subject of the section or edition in which they appear.

Prior to converting my firm to a marketing consultancy in the 1990s, we were fortunate to be invited to be a member of the AAAA, the American Association of Advertising Agencies. This is arguably the leading advertising agency trade group. We bought millions of dollars of print and broadcast media back then. Before that, I was on the other side of the business and worked as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, more than once writing critically about my publication’s major advertisers. I understand from raw experience, including being summoned with my city editor to the publisher’s office, the importance of having a bright line between news and advertising. This experience does not mean that I don’t want to hear other opinions, or that there may not be an exception out there. Write me; I’m happy to discuss this topic.

If you’d like to learn more about the ASME rules visit: http://www.magazine.org/asme/asme_guidelines/guidelines.aspx.

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