Sigh. This one truly pains me, as there are many friends of mine in there. Men and women I like and respect. There are also some lawyers who suck, and a few I’ve never even heard of. Since I know most lawyers who practice criminal defense around these parts, it’s hard to imagine many Superlawyers whose names are unknown, but there they are.
Like most lawyers (I suppose), I’ve gotten the letter from Superlawyers that begins, “Congatulations! You have been nominated . . . ” I file it with my Nigerian lottery notifications. Apparently, that’s not true of all lawyers. To each his own.
So what’s this Superlawyers all about? According to Larry Bodine’s LawMarketing Blog, it’s about an appeal to ego.
When I am advising a law firm on marketing, and see that they’ve put their Super Lawyers selection on their Web site or in a press release, I recommend they immediately remove them. They are embarrassing themselves. They are advertising to the world that the only ranking they can get into is one that sells advertising. They are announcing how insecure they are that their ego needs to be propped up with apparent praise.
Ouch. During a lunch with fellow marketers, Bodine says, “The marketers laughed, and then sighed about how easily the lawyers were fooled. All it took was one shot at their egos and the were ready to pay money to be in a meaningless directory.” Are lawyers that fragile?
There is no doubt that an advertising scheme like Superlawyers plays on the ego of lawyers, but in some respects it’s understandable. An AV rating from Martindale Hubbell really doesn’t do much to distinguish a lawyer, and certainly lacks the pizazz of Super Lawyer. You’ve never seen AV Man flying through the air with a cape, have you?
Ernie the Attorney was proud of himself for being a Super Lawyer, though it appears that he bought into the rhetoric without knowing that others simply bought in.
They sent us a letter that three of our lawyers had been chosen,” said the director of a prominent Ohio law firm. “One was retired and another was dead.” So much for their rigorous selection criteria. “So I called up and said I wanted three different lawyers in the directory. They said ‘OK.'” Again, so much for their rigorous selection criteria.
One of the problems is that lawyers, looking for a way to distinguish themselves, may not be as scrupulous in vetting their “awards” as they should be. Ernie probably is a Super Lawyer, but not because he was listed in the advertisement. But if you really are a super lawyer, how do you let people know?
In New Jersey, Super Lawyers has been outlawed. It was deemed unethical and a scam on the public. Whether it’s any more of a scam than any other lawyer advertising is unclear, but the superlative nature of the list does tend to suggest a great deal about a lawyer that may not be exactly accurate. Still, being part of the Super Lawyer advertisement doesn’t mean you aren’t a great lawyer either.
I chose to toss my Superlawyer notification. I toss a lot of this stuff. My AV rating from Martindale means something, I think, and I put stuff like this on my website because it’s all lawyers have available. But Superlawyers was way over the top for me, and apparently for a number of other criminal defense lawyers I know who are far, far better than some of the people who decided to pay the fare and get their mugs into the New York Times Magazine today.
I won’t criticize those lawyers who decided that it was worth the money to become a Superlawyer. Every good criminal defense lawyer fights for the few top cases that come along, and wants any edge they can get. There just aren’t that many really good cases. Maybe I’ll bite when I get the advertisement to be a “Really, Really Super Lawyer.” After all, if it is says “really” twice, it must be true.