You can hate the ranking game, but be a player

Kristen Lovett, The Daily Record Newswire

Legal rankings often elicit strong reactions from attorneys. I had a lawyer tell me he planned to call one publication to tell it to remove his name from the list, and another said she was embarrassed because she was unranked.

Are rankings a meaningless game, or can placement in legal directories help attorneys win new business? In today’s market, winning clients is no game. Legal rankings are one tactic that can help influence clients.

Being ranked as a “Best Lawyer,” for example, could make the difference when a potential client is comparing you against other attorneys. A 2011 BTI Consulting survey on legal directories reported that one in two in-house legal decision-makers said they were less likely to hire an attorney who was not listed in Best Lawyers/US News, Chambers or Martindale-Hubbell.

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.

Unlike Monopoly, you cannot simply buy a spot on the board. You must 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:

• Best Lawyers lists individual attorneys and bases the results of peer reviews by other lawyers. You cannot nominate yourself, but your marketing director, colleagues or clients can nominate you. Be patient — it may take a couple of years of having your name on the voting list before yours show up in the rankings.

• Best Law Firms/US News is one of the newer 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 included.

• Chambers USA ranks firms and individual attorneys by practice area and geographic area. You do not need to submit a nomination to be ranked (but it helps). Submissions may include a summary of up to 10 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 that of Chambers. It also permits a summary of up to 10 notable successes in the past year, but allows for 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.

• ACC Value Index was an initiative started by the Association of Corporate Counsel to rank law firms’ value. According to the ACC website, it is no longer active.

• Martindale-Hubbell Peer 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

• 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 they place prominently in search-engine results and may influence less sophisticated buyers of legal services.

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.
Attorneys continue to disagree on the merits of professional rankings, but they have inarguably 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.


Kirsten Lovett is a marketing consultant who helps small and mid-size law firms develop and implement business development strategies. She is the financial officer on the board of the New England chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. She can be contacted at