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Is 'Super Lawyers' the Cheesiest?

Once upon a time, lawyer rankings were more subtle and, um, discreet. Sure, Martindale-Hubbell ranked lawyers, but it used esoteric letter codes that nobody but insiders understood and kept them camouflaged from the public in brick-like bound volumes. Nowadays, lawyer rankings have evolved (?) into a cacophony of voices loudly proclaiming who are the best and the brightest of the bunch. Lawyers have mixed feelings about these rankings, glad to make the list but reluctant to tout it too loudly.

In Condé Nast Portfolio, writer Karen Donovan (with whom I've worked in the past) does a great job of portraying the legal profession's ambivalence about one in particular of these rankings, Super Lawyers, which she says "may just be the cheesiest example of this phenomenon." Donovan attends a Waldorf-Astoria cocktail party held to celebrate the publication of the latest ranking of New York Super Lawyers. There, she encounters the man who is number one on the list, Theodore V. Wells Jr. of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. While Wells is happy to attend the party and calls the Super Lawyers publication "first-rate," he makes no mention of his designation as a Super Lawyer in his law-firm biography. Another lawyer at the reception asks Donovan not to use his name and calls the whole affair "a popularity contest."

Away from the party, Donovan found even less enthusiasm for Super Lawyers. Mark S. Edelstein, chair of Morrison & Foerster's real estate financing practice, said his selection as a Super Lawyer was "a tad embarrassing." He compared the ads lawyers buy in the Super Lawyers magazines to "selling toilet paper or something." Alan Ripp, a media-relations consultant to several law firms, said the ads make lawyers look "oily." "It's schlocky -- the worst kind of vanity on display," he said.

Well, at least it is an exclusive club. Isn't it? Not according to marketing consultant Micah Buchdahl, who tells Donovan that any attorney who wants to be a Super Lawyer can be, by virtue of calling a few friends and enlisting their votes.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 30, 2007 at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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