A relative told me something that I already knew: That I had been selected as a personal injury Super Lawyer. They knew because it had been published by the New York Times.
Yeah, well, kinda sorta. But not really. Super Lawyers is a supplement to the magazine; an advertising supplement. You don’t have to pay to be listed, you only pay if you want your name displayed prominently in a large box or page with a story about you that looks like news. Sort of an advertisement within the advertisement. I think the marketers call it an advertorial. I declined their offer to pony up big bucks for such an honor many months ago.
But now comes the other issue: What, exactly, do I do with this “honor”? Is this really an award to put on your wall or display on your website? Or is it a faux-award? A pseudo-faux award? A mockery of a pseudo-faux award? A mockery of a sham of….OK, you get the idea.
I have mixed feelings about this. The company that puts out the information says the lawyers are vetted before they appear. So if we are vetted, then perhaps this really is something to be proud of?
But what kind of vetting actually takes place? Super Lawyers claims on their website that:
Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis.
Of course, they never asked me to evaluate any of my peers. And I don’t know anyone else that was asked to do an evaluation. (Update: Now I do.) They have a full page of words on their website to describe their process, but it doesn’t seem very revealing to me. They have a “research department” that assigns “point values” to different criteria.
I must confess that this all seems pretty meaningless to me. If you want to know if I’m good at what I do, it seems you would have to read a brief I’ve written, read a deposition I’ve taken or perhaps watched a trial. Even if a lawyer comes in second at trial, an observer might still be able to gauge how comfortable s/he is inside the well of the courtroom. Everything else is, shall we say, hearsay. Inadmissible.
But that little logo sure looks nice, doesn’t it? And it would look great on a website if someone were looking for counsel. (Though not so good if a juror should see it and conclude I was thoroughly full of myself.) And I can’t just say that Super Lawyers is making stuff up, because I could be very wrong about that. I just don’t really know. And they don’t really reveal the way they do their analysis, despite all the words they use to talk around the issue.
So what will I do? I don’t really know yet, though putting it on my website (the website that I hate) and then linking that “honor” back to this post showing my complete ambivalence might be one option. At least it would educate the legal consumer a bit about those that put such things on their sites or on their office walls.
And I am also left with the impression that this is a notch above being in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Of course, that didn’t really set a very high bar.
- New Jersey Law Journal report potentially misleading (Super Lawyer Blog)
- Superlawyers with Cheese, Please (Simple Justice, 9/23/07)
- NJ Stupidly Outlaws “Super Lawyers” and “Best Lawyers” (Larry Bodine, 7/23/06)
Update: Super Lawyers was sold in February 2010 to Thomson Reuters, which might tend to give it more legitimacy, though it isn’t without its problems regarding conflicts.
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