What’s the point of law firm rankings?

June 23, 2008
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We get a lot of e-mails from law firms touting their ranking on a list of “outstanding” firms by a publication or naming them third-largest overall according to some survey. We don’t publish the rankings in our paper because we just don’t have available space to do so, and we don’t want to inadvertently leave out a law firm on a particular list whose marketing department didn’t happen to send us a press release.

And honestly, what’s so significant about a ranking if it seems like every big law firm in the state is ranked on the same list? Really, a lot of these lists are quite subjective. How do you determine who is “outstanding” or “super?” My definition of “super” might not be the same as those who compiled the list.

We get these notifications from the firms because we are a legal newspaper, but I can’t recall seeing a mainstream media outlet write a story about an Indiana firm making a national list because its attorneys were highly rated by their peers. If these lists are for the benefit of the client to make the firms stand out from the rest, the law firms aren’t doing a very good job of getting that notion out in the public.

Even if John Q. Public comes across the latest ranking of the largest litigation firms in the country, I doubt whether a firm comes in fourth or fourteenth makes too much of a difference to someone who is looking for a quality law firm that he can afford to take on his case.

These lists seem more like bragging rights for the legal community. They post the press releases about the ranking on their Web sites to call attention to the fact that they are one of only a handful of Indiana firms to make this particular list, or maybe even the only one. When there are so many lists compiled by various publications, and marketing and consulting firms, it’s easy to glaze over the results because you know you’ll see a list with similar criteria with different results in the near future on another firm’s site.

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  • Jennifer, thanks for sharing your thoughts on such lists, and the vanity among the firms that often go with it. As most know, such lists are often designed for one primary reason - to sell advertising. They have little to no useful purpose, particularly as the public goes. Some law firms are very good at patting themselves on the back and spending a lot of money and attention telling others how great and how super they are. Studies do show that consumers and other lawyers in general (including potential referring lawyers) do not look kindly at such self-promotion and arrogence. In the end, a good marketing effort should have your clients telling others how good you are. If you have to pay to do so, you should probably be re-visiting your marketing approach.

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