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Awarding Organization: Pennsylvania Super Lawyers Magazine
Methodology: STEP 1: NOMINATIONS / CREATION OF CANDIDATE POOL
Lawyers enter the candidate pool by being formally nominated by a peer or if identified by the research department during the research process.
Once a year, we invite lawyers in each state to nominate the top attorneys they’ve personally observed in action. Lawyers may nominate attorneys in their own firm, but these nominations count only if each in-firm nomination is matched by at least one out-firm nomination.
Each nomination carries a point value and out-firm nominations have a greater point value than in-firm nominations. Lawyers cannot nominate themselves, and must limit their nominations to others who practice in the same state.
Our procedures and database have several safeguards that prevent lawyers from “gaming” the system. For example, we track who nominates whom. This helps us detect any excessive “back-scratch” nominations (lawyers nominating each other) and “block nominations” (where members of the same law firm all cast identical nominations). We also prohibit lawyers from engaging in “campaigning” or solicitation of nominations from other lawyers.
While important, the nomination phase is simply the first step in our process. It puts lawyers on our radar for further research and evaluation, and awards points in our rating system. But we limit the value of those points so that no matter how many nominations one receives, it will not guarantee selection.
Our attorney-led research staff searches for lawyers who have attained certain honors, results or credentials, which indicate a high degree of peer recognition or professional competence. For example, certification as a specialist in a particular area of practice, or admission to prestigious colleges or academies, e.g., The American College of Trial Lawyers. The staff identifies these credentials by reviewing a proprietary list of database and online sources, including national and local legal trade publications.
During the research process, we discover outstanding lawyers who have been overlooked in the nomination process. These may include: lawyers with national litigation practices who rarely appear in the courts of their home jurisdiction; lawyers in smaller firms or from smaller communities; and lawyers practicing in less visible or highly specialized practice areas.
Throughout the year, readers, clients, marketing directors and attorneys who are not eligible to formally nominate (that is, actively licensed to practice in the same state as the nominee) send us names of lawyers we should consider for inclusion. Though no points are awarded, we add these lawyers to the candidate pool for further research and evaluation.
STEP 2: INDEPENDENT RESEARCH BY SUPER LAWYERS
Our research department evaluates each lawyer in the candidate pool based on these 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
These indicators are not treated equally; some have a higher maximum point value than others.
STEP 3: PEER EVALUATION BY PRACTICE AREA
The third step of the selection process is peer evaluation by practice area, also known as the “blue ribbon review.” The candidates in each practice area with the highest point totals from steps one and two above are asked to serve on a blue ribbon panel. The panelists are then provided a list of candidates from their practice areas to review, rating them on a scale of one to five.
STEP 4: FINAL SELECTION
Candidates are grouped into four firm-size categories. Those with the highest point totals from each category are selected. This means solo and small firm lawyers are compared with other solo and small firm lawyers, and large firm lawyers are compared with other large firm lawyers. Five percent of the total lawyers in the state are selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers.
The research staff checks each candidate’s standing with the local licensing authority. Each candidate is asked to aver that they have never been subject to disciplinary or criminal proceedings.
Final Internet searches are performed on each candidate to ensure there are no outstanding matters that would reflect adversely on the lawyer. We also contact each lawyer to ensure accuracy of all published information.
The final published list represents no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state. The lists are published annually in state and regional editions of Super Lawyers Magazines and in inserts and special advertising sections in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers. All attorneys selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers, regardless of year, can be found on SuperLawyers.com.
US News Best Law Firm
Awarding Organization: U.S. News Media Group and Best Lawyers
Methodology: The U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. To be eligible for a ranking in a particular practice area and metro region, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro. For more information on Best Lawyers, please visit bestlawyers.com.
For the 2016 “Best Law Firms” list, the methodology for the initiative remained the same as in the previous five years.
Clients were asked to provide feedback on firm practice groups, addressing expertise, responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, civility, and whether they would refer another client to the firm. Clients also had the option to write in the names of law firms they’ve worked with on other matters and within practice areas beyond those they were asked to comment on by the submitting firm. Some clients chose to write a comment about their experience with the law firm. These comments are for reference only and were not used as data points in the formal evaluation process.
Lawyers also voted on expertise, responsiveness, integrity, cost-effectiveness, whether they would refer a matter to a firm, and whether they consider a firm a worthy competitor. We asked this group to vote on law firms that have a preeminent national presence within specified legal practice area(s) they know well. For the third year, a Law Firm Leaders Survey was implemented to provide personal insight on the legal landscape surrounding the nationally ranked practice areas. In addition to information from these surveys, the rankings incorporate the 6.7 million evaluations of 55,041 individual leading lawyers collected by Best Lawyers in its most recent annual survey.
In addition to lawyer and client feedback, law firms were asked to provide us with general demographic and background information on the law firm and attorneys, and other data that speaks to the strengths of a law firm’s practice areas.
All of the quantitative and qualitative data were combined into an overall “Best Law Firms” score for each firm. This data was then compared to other firms within the same metropolitan area and at the national level. Because firms were often separated by small or insignificant differences in overall score, we use a tiering system rather than ranking law firms sequentially. The first tier in each metropolitan area includes those firms that scored within a certain percentage of the highest-scoring firm(s); the second tier, those firms that scored within a certain percentage of the next highest scoring firm(s), and so on. The national rankings were based on metropolitan rankings as well as on the number of offices each firm had with a metropolitan ranking and on the level of legal activity in each metropolitan area. The number of tiers included in each practice area or metropolitan area ranking varies, and some specialties may not be ranked in metro areas in which there is not enough data to provide rankings in a particular specialty. Of the 13,124 firms that were eligible to submit information for the ranking process, 12,762 firms, including a large number of one-person firms, received rankings, and 7,946 of those firms received first-tier national and/or metropolitan rankings.
Awarding Organization: Best Lawyers
Methodology: Inclusion in Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer-review. The 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 area and legal practice area. Best Lawyers employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services. Our belief has always been that the quality of a peer-review survey is directly related to the quality of its voting pool.
1. Nomination – Lawyers can be nominated by anyone but themselves.
2. Peer Review – Current listed lawyers provide feedback on the nominee’s work.
3. Analysis of Feedback – Results are calculated and feedback is reviewed.
4. Eligibility Check – Nominees are confirmed to be in good standing with their local bar associations.
5. Results Released – Firms are informed of results and the list is published