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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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

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  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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