What does it mean to be selected as a “Best Lawyer” or “Super Lawyer”?
By Adam J. Langino, Esq.
There’s a hidden secret in the legal profession that outsiders may not be aware of… bogus legal awards. This article sheds light on the legal award industry and shares some information about the awards that mean something.
The Legal Award Industry
As you may have guessed, not all awards are created equal. Some “awards” may be purchased and not based on merit. The bogus legal award industry is booming. So much so that in 2021 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sent a “Consumer Alert” to help consumers navigate this issue.[i]
The U.S. FTC says, “[i]t can be tricky to tell whether an award is earned through merit or simply a marketing ploy,” and I agree.[ii] The FTC suggests that you ask the following questions when evaluating any potential lawyer’s awards.[iii]
How long has the award been in existence?
What requirements must be met to receive the award?
How many awards are given out each year?
I would suggest you also ask if the lawyer paid for the award. If the lawyer had to pay to receive the award, that is a red flag that the award is more based on marketing than merit. The FTC also suggests that consumers search online for more information about potential lawyer’s awards.[iv] Suppose you are basing your selection of a lawyer on awards alone (which I do not suggest you do). In that case, I agree that trying to verify the importance of your lawyer’s awards is an essential step in your vetting process.
The FTC also suggests that when choosing a lawyer, a consumer should “be sure to look beyond any seals or badges on the [their] website.”[v] I agree. In fact, I wrote an article about what I believe makes a good lawyer. In selecting a lawyer, the FTC suggests consumers take the following steps:
Ask for recommendations from people you trust who already have experience hiring lawyers. Online reviews can be made up or written by people with personal ties to the lawyers.
Lawyers must pass a state bar exam to practice law in the U.S., and they often have to be admitted to the bar in the state where they practice. Check the state bar association to see if the attorney is active, inactive, disciplined, or disbarred.
Look for actual accomplishments and past work experience. Many court documents are public record, and you can see if the lawyer you’re considering has experience handling your type of legal issue.
I agree with the FTC’s suggestions. I would also add that you should not be shy about asking your lawyer about their experience handling your specific type of claim or injury. For instance, if you or someone you love suffered a traumatic brain injury, you will want a lawyer experienced in handling that type of claim. If your lawyer does not have experience handling lawsuits with traumatic brain injuries, they may not know the best evidence to put forward to prove your damages to a jury – despite their best efforts.
Further, if you or someone you love was injured in a collision with a truck, you will want to ask your lawyer about their experience handling these types of claims. I have written about the special considerations that any lawyer should take when handling a truck injury claim. Truckers must follow many rules and regulations while operating their vehicle. If your lawyer is not familiar with these safety rules, they may not be able to effectively argue to a jury why the trucker was at fault for causing harm.
As you can see, not all awards are meaningful. However, a handful of lawyer awards are based on merit. Two merit-based awards are discussed in more detail below.
Founded in 1991, Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. It is a rating service of outstanding lawyers with a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement.[vi]
Super Lawyer’s objective is to create a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel.[vii] Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, it limits its lawyer ratings to those attorneys who can be hired and retained by the public.[viii]
Only 2.5% to 5% of attorneys are selected as Super Lawyers. You do not pay to be selected. However, you can pay Super Lawyers to advertise your achievement after you are chosen. From 2020 to the present, I have been recognized as a Super Lawyer.
Founded in 1981, Best Lawyers is one of the original lawyer-ranking organizations. Candidates are chosen based on feedback from their colleagues. Best Lawyers' methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical and legal practice areas.
In 2022, Best Lawyers recognized 144,106 lawyers across 76 countries based on over 13 million peer evaluations.[ix] Anyone but themselves can nominate lawyers.[x] Currently recognized Best Lawyers next provide feedback on the caliber of the candidate’s work.[xi] Results are next collected, and input from voters is reviewed.[xii] Best Lawyers confirms that its candidates are in good standing with their local bar associations.[xiii] Finally, the lawyer is informed of their selection, and the results are published online.[xiv]
Only the top. 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were included in the most recent Best Lawyer selection.[xv] Like Super Lawyers, you do not pay to be selected. However, you can pay to advertise your achievement. From 2020 to the present, I have been recognized as a Best Lawyer in America.
I am sorry if you are reading this because you or someone you love was killed or catastrophically injured by the negligent acts of another. I hope you find this article helpful in evaluating any lawyer you consider hiring. Over my career, I have handled many wrongful death claims and catastrophic injury claims. I am licensed to practice law in Florida and North Carolina and co-counsel claims in other states. If you would like to learn more about me or my practice, click here. If you want to request a free consultation, click here. As always, stay safe and stay well.
[i] Hebert, Amy, et al. “Look beyond the Award When You Hire a Lawyer.” Consumer Advice, 12 May 2022, https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2021/12/look-beyond-award-when-you-hire-lawyer.
[vi] “Selection Process.” Super Lawyers, https://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html.
[ix] “Best Lawyers® - Purely Peer Review™.” Best Lawyers, https://www.bestlawyers.com/.
[x] “A Purely Peer Review™ Methodology: Best Lawyers.” A Purely Peer Review™ Methodology | Best Lawyers, https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.
[xv] Lawyers, Best. “2023 Best Lawyers Awards in America.” 2023 Best Lawyers Awards in America | Best Lawyers, 17 Aug. 2022, https://bit.ly/3T47X6K