Super Lawyers is the "Cheesiest" Ranking

In a scathing review of the Super Lawyers directory, Karen Donovan said the ranking is "the cheesiest example of this phenomenon" in her article on  I've been saying this for years, see Marketers Laugh at "Super Lawyers" 

I've always thought that promoting yourself as a "Super Lawyer" or "Best Lawyer" was pathetic, self-aggrandizing and meaningless.  I counsel law firm clients not to hype this designation, because it preys upon lawyer egos to publicly praise themselves, and leads to expensive advertising campaigns.  It is also weak, because it meant the only source that said you were any good was a silly directory.

"If the name suggests exclusivity, the actual list is anything but," Donovan wrote. "Basically the way the polling is handled, I have always suggested to folks that any attorney that wants to be a Super Lawyer can be, by virtue of calling a few friends," consultant Micah Buchdahl was quoted as saying. "It's not an exclusive club."

Even some publicists for law firms see the Super Lawyers ad inserts as the worst form of P.R. "It makes you look oily. It's schlocky-the worst kind of vanity on display," said Allan Ripp, who handles media relations for several large law firms.

One lawyer spoke to Donovan on the condition that his name not be used. "I think people are gratified to be recognized at the dinner table or a school function," he said. "It's a popularity contest," he acknowledged, and the fact that his name appears alongside paid ads, "runs the risk of it being confused as being an advertisement."

"It's a tad embarrassing," said Mark S. Edelstein, chair of Morrison & Foerster's real estate financing practice, who made the list of real estate Super Lawyers. "I don't know why anyone would spend their money to get their picture or firm in there. It makes you feel like you are selling toilet paper or something."

William A, Brewer III of the commercial litigation firm Bickel & Brewer said, "the firm gets "zero" business from the ads, but he has noticed an "uptick" in support for the firm's pro bono activities after the ads run. "I think I got a call from an existing client who told me my tie was crooked," he said. "I think he was teasing me."

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Overlawyered - November 6, 2007 10:51 PM
"I've always thought that promoting yourself as a 'Super Lawyer' or 'Best Lawyer' was pathetic, self-aggrandizing and meaningless." [Larry Bodine; Karen Donovan, Portfolio ("cheesiest"); ABA Journal] That big campaign by bossy public health groups and...
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Mina N. Sirkin, Esq. - November 3, 2007 11:33 PM

I tend to disagree with you. Super Lawyer is no more cheezy than Martindale. It is simply an alternate marketing tool or tactic. Here is how Super Lawyer and Martindale are similar: Getting on both can be initiated by your firm. Both charge you an arm and a leg to be listed or featured. Both ask your peers to see if you are recommended. You supply your peers' names to them!!

If you can get your name out in front of other lawyers, you have begun marketing! The old cliches of "foo foo" marketing are dead. The new generation of lawyers uses all available tools to market. New practitioners are more marketing savy than the old school lawyers. They do not care much about the stigma attached to paying for advertising. As a viewer of any of those marketing tools, it is up to me to evaluate the reputation of the lawyer once I hear his o her name, before I refer him/her to a potential client.

As the marketing arm of a law firm, I tend to consider all possible ways of marketing and don't dismiss any tool.


Mina N. Sirkin, Esq.
Certified Specialist Attorney
Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law
Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar
of California

Nick Augustine - January 27, 2011 1:03 PM

Several of our most prominent attorneys have been featured in Super Lawyers. Many of them are ABA, state and local bar association leaders.

People should consider the motivation for being listed in Super Lawyers. The added SEO benefit and credentialing to commercial clients is a real advantage.

I suppose if counsel are concerned with peer review and popularity (maybe they hope for associate judicial nominations) then there may be criticism. Many attorneys prefer having their name in published decision.

At the end of the day, it depends on your practice area and what you are likely to get from a Super Lawyer listing. I counsel my clients to diversify their marketing and public relations campaigns.

J. Nick Augustine J.D.
Law Practice Management Agent
ALR/PRA, Inc. 35 E. Wacker Dr. Chicago, IL 60601

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