Guide to Getting Ranked: Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers & U.S. News Best Law Firms
Each year, Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers and U.S. News Best Law Firms release their rankings of top attorneys and law firms across the country, and you may find yourself asking – why am I not ranked? Or, is it even worth getting ranked? Whether you are a firm believer in these lists or not, we have decades of experience navigating firms through the process and have created a handy guide to step you through it.
Getting Ranked on Super Lawyers
Super Lawyers selects attorneys from all firm sizes in more than 70 practice areas on a state-by-state basis (except California, which is broken up into San Diego and Northern and Southern California rankings).
What you need to know about voting:
Any practicing attorney can nominate, even if they haven’t been previously ranked, by creating an account and logging in here.
- You can submit up to 21 total attorneys – seven attorneys outside your firm, seven inside your firm and seven for Rising Stars (more on Rising Stars below).
- Inside firm nominations are counted only if an equal or greater number of lawyers outside your firm are nominated. Outside nominations have a greater point value than inside nominations.
- Marketing directors and others can nominate attorneys, but no points are awarded for this nomination.
- No self-nominations and you can only nominate others in your state/region.
- Super Lawyers prohibits campaigning for nominations and will not tell you who nominated you.
Once nominations close, Super Lawyers conducts what they call a “patented multiphase selection process” which includes research and evaluation of candidates based on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement:
- Representative clients
- Special licenses/certifications
- Position within the law firm
- Bar and/or professional activity
- Pro bono and community service
- Scholarly lectures/writings
- Education/employment background
- Other outstanding achievements
However, Super Lawyers doesn’t disclose exact details of their research process and says some of the above indicators have a higher point value than others.
The final step of the selection process is peer evaluation by practice area and firm size. Candidates with the highest point totals are asked to review and rate a complete list of candidates grouped into four firm-size categories. This means solo/small firm lawyers are compared against each other, and large firm lawyers are compared with other large firm lawyers.
To be eligible for Rising Stars, a lawyer must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less. The process for being selected to the Rising Stars list is the same as Super Lawyers. Be aware, if you are selected to the Rising Stars list and the following year qualify for Super Lawyers, this does not guarantee you make the Super Lawyers list.
Super Lawyers also publishes a handful of “Top Lists” by state/region which feature attorneys with the most total points earned. These lists include: Top 50, Top 50 Women, Top 100 and Top 10 which publish at the same time as the Super Lawyers list, and Up-and-Coming 25, Up-and-Coming 50 and Up-and-Coming 100 which publish at the same time as Rising Stars. There is no trick to getting on these lists, it’s simply those with the most points.
For a visual step-by-step of setting up your profile and the nomination process, go here.
Each state has a unique nomination period and date when the rankings publish. You can find your respective state’s key dates here and click on the drop-down.
The nomination period is open for a year and selected attorneys are notified approximately a month or two after, but rankings are under embargo until the actual publication date. In the interim, Super Lawyers requests selected attorneys to verify their profile information so it’s correct when they publish the lists.
SUPER LAWYERS TIPS:
- If you make the Super Lawyers or Rising Stars list one year, this does not guarantee you will make the list in future years. You can fall off the list, so you need to do everything in your power to ensure Super Lawyers considers you each year.
- Participating in the nomination process doesn’t help your chances of being ranked and on the flip side, if you don’t participate, it doesn’t mean you won’t get ranked, but we highly encourage all attorneys to take part.
- Super Lawyers does look at your online profile each year, so it’s important to keep it up to date with recent successes, published articles, association/board roles, other awards, pro bono work, etc. The goal is to make it as complete as possible, but the emphasis should be on the last five years of your practice. Any practicing attorney can set up a profile that is only viewable to Super Lawyers for research purposes.
- While it’s against Super Lawyers’ policy to solicit votes, we do encourage attorneys to inform colleagues when nominations open. It should also be an internal discussion at your firm to ensure everyone is participating.
WHERE IS SUPER LAWYERS PUBLISHED?
Super Lawyers lists are published at www.superlawyers.com, as well as in print publications such as Southern California Super Lawyers magazine. The rankings are also featured as supplements in regional newspapers and business journals. There is no editorial feature, it’s merely a listing of your name, practice area and jurisdiction. Once ranked, your Super Lawyers profile will be visible online, but with limited information – no photo, contact information, etc.
LEVERAGING YOUR RANKING
Once Super Lawyers and Rising Stars lists have published, you can tout your ranking, which is the real benefit of being named to the list. Here are a few suggestions for promoting:
- Post a press release announcement on your website and social media – see templates for both lists here. Super Lawyers has specific guidelines for publicizing your ranking, learn more here.
- Update your website bio with your ranking.
- Add the logo to your website, email signature and other marketing materials. Super Lawyers provides variations of the approved logo you can download from your profile.
- Include the announcement in your firm newsletter.
DOES IT COST MONEY?
There is no cost to be ranked by Super Lawyers; however, you will be contacted to discuss purchasing an upgraded profile, plaques, ads and other promotional material. The Super Lawyers website and profiles do have a high search engine ranking, so an upgraded profile may be something to consider if you are investing in search engine optimization or other lead generation initiatives. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to purchasing an upgraded profile; it depends on your firm’s marketing goals and budget.
Getting Ranked on Best Lawyers
Best Lawyers publishes an annual list like Super Lawyers; however, its rankings extend globally. Recognition by Best Lawyers is based on their Purely Peer Review® process which asks ranked lawyers to provide feedback on the professional abilities of colleagues within the same geographical area and practice area.
What you need to know about nominations:
- Best Lawyers nominations are for those attorneys who have been in practice 10+ years; Best Lawyers Ones to Watch nominations apply to attorneys practicing three to nine years. An attorney cannot be a candidate for both.
- No self-nominations, but almost anyone else – clients, marketing teams, colleagues, etc. – can nominate an attorney.
- There is no limit to the number of nominations you can submit.
- The number of nominations received has no effect on an individual lawyer’s recognition.
- Nominations can be submitted at https://www.bestlawyers.com/nominate or by emailing email@example.com. You will need to provide the attorney’s name, firm, location and up to three practice areas of specialization.
- Previously recognized lawyers will automatically be re-nominated for the following year’s research cycle. Best Lawyers also keeps all nominees on the ballot for three years; if they are not recognized after three years, they will need to be re-nominated.
Once the nomination period closes, Best Lawyers distributes ballots to already ranked attorneys to vote on nominated attorneys in their same practice area(s) and geographic region. Voters are asked, “If you were unable to take a case yourself, how likely would you be to refer it to this nominee?” and then give the nominee a 1-5 rating with the ability to include written comments.
Best Lawyers researchers review votes and comments and confirm lawyers are in good standing with their state bar. Selected lawyers are then notified by email and hard copy letter, and any firm representatives will be notified via email.
Ones to Watch
Like the Best Lawyers rankings, an attorney must be nominated for Ones to Watch and the selection methodology is the same. Ones to Watch are attorneys that have not been ranked as a Best Lawyer, but as the name suggests, are those that are close to making the list.
Lawyer of the Year
This award is given annually to a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area.
Firms with the most recognized lawyers in a particular location and practice area are recognized with this award. It is not related to the U.S. News Best Law Firms rankings.
Law Firm of the Year
These awards recognize a single top firm for its work in a specific legal practice area nationwide. Awards are determined based on several factors, including lawyer feedback, the size and breadth of the firm and historical analysis of the firm’s “Lawyer of the Year” awards.
For a visual step-by-step of the nomination and voting process, go here.
The U.S. Best Lawyers and Ones to Watch timelines differs from other countries. You can view the complete list here.
While the dates shift slightly each year for nominations, voting and publicizing, you can rely on them taking place around the same time.
BEST LAWYERS TIPS:
- Like Super Lawyers, we encourage all eligible attorneys to participate in the nomination/voting process even though Best Lawyers says this does not help or hurt your chances of being ranked.
- Firms can set up an account to track their ranked and nominated attorneys. This is helpful to see who needs to be nominated, re-nominated or removed from consideration if they left the firm, etc.
- Setting up a firm account also allows you to see who has voted or not. If the voting deadline is approaching and attorneys have not submitted their ballots, you can request Best Lawyers to resend.
WHERE IS BEST LAWYERS PUBLISHED?
Best Lawyers rankings are published online at www.bestlawyers.com, as well as supplements in major newspapers, magazines and business journals nationwide.
LEVERAGING YOUR RANKING
We recommend the same promotional tactics as described for Super Lawyers, although there is one major difference – you must purchase a Best Lawyers logo to be able to use it in your materials. There are specific logo usage guidelines as well as publicizing guidelines to cite your ranking. View guidelines here.
Best Lawyers offers a range of paid opportunities to further amplify your ranking, including upgraded profiles, plaques, etc. Without purchasing a profile, you will not be visible or searchable on their website. Again, the decision to purchase these materials will depend on your firm’s goals and budget.
Getting Ranked on U.S. News Best Law Firms
U.S. News and Best Lawyers joined forces to rank law firms in 75 national practice areas and 127 regional-specific practice areas. To be eligible for Best Law Firms, a firm must have at least one attorney who is recognized in the current edition of Best Lawyers.
Rather than being nominated, eligible firms are sent a submission packet each January which includes practice/metro areas, a law firm survey and instructions on how to submit clients/professional references to be surveyed.
Sample law firm survey for firms under 20 lawyers.
Sample law firm survey for firms over 20 lawyers.
What you need to know about submissions and voting:
- Once Best Law Firms receives references (you can submit as many as you’d like, and they are confidential), client surveys are sent out asking for feedback on firm practice groups, including expertise, responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, civility, and whether they would refer another client to the firm. There is also an option to write in the names of other law firms they would recommend.
- Individually ranked Best Lawyers also cast votes and are asked to weigh in on expertise, responsiveness, whether they would refer a matter to a firm and whether they consider a firm a worthy competitor.
- Firms are also asked to provide demographic information and other data on their attorneys and practice area strengths.
- All of this data is compiled into an overall Best Law Firms score for each firm.
- Firms are compared with others in the same metropolitan area and at the national level and ranked in either Tier 1, 2 or 3 with the highest-scoring firms ranked as Tier 1. Note that the number of tiers included in each practice area or metropolitan area ranking varies, and some specialties may not be ranked in metro areas where there is not enough data to provide rankings in a particular specialty.
Law Firm of the Year
One firm is recognized with Law Firm of the Year in each of the 75 nationally ranked practice areas based on an overall top performance in the research process. A firm is only eligible to win in two categories in each Best Law Firms edition.
Deadlines typically fall around the same time each year. For reference, the 2024 edition timeline is as follows:
- Mid-January: Submission packets sent to firms
- End of March: Professional references are due
- Mid-April: Surveys are sent to references
- Early May: Law firm surveys are due
- Mid-May: Reference surveys are due
- Mid-July: Embargoed release of next year’s edition (firms are notified via email of their ranking)
- Early November: Public release of next year’s edition (firms can publicize their ranking)
BEST LAW FIRMS TIPS:
- Because a significant portion of your ranking is determined by reference feedback, it’s important to include contacts that will be responsive to the survey. We recommend giving references a heads up before submitting their name.
- Even though the reference surveys are a critical piece to getting ranked, don’t forego submitting the law firm survey. Both surveys are essential.
- The Best Law Firms rankings, surveys, etc. can also be found in your online profile which are housed with your Best Lawyers Again, it is beneficial to set up a firm account so everything can be accessed and tracked in one place.
- While you need one attorney to be recognized as a Best Lawyer to be eligible for Best Law Firms, these are two distinct entities and you/your firm must participate in each submission process to get ranked. Don’t assume being recognized on one will automatically get you ranked on the other.
WHERE IS BEST LAW FIRMS PUBLISHED?
All rankings are published at bestlawfirms.usnews.com.
LEVERAGING YOUR RANKING
Like Best Lawyers, you must purchase a badge to use it in your marketing materials. Ranked firms will appear on the U.S. News Best Law Firms website but only the firm name and Tier. To have additional information published, you’ll need to pay for an upgraded profile.
You can learn more about publicizing guidelines and marketing opportunities here.
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