A Rank Concern

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The legal profession now has just what many people thought it did not need: another publication that attempts to give rankings to law firms. U.S. News & World Report, which for some years has irritated people with its rankings of law schools, worked with longtime evaluator The Best Lawyers in America to develop and release an inaugural attempt to rank the practice capabilities of major law firms by tiers of excellence. The American Bar Association was so concerned about this latest effort that earlier this year the House of Delegates passed a resolution asking the ABA to "examine any efforts to publish national, state, territorial, and local rankings of law firms and law schools." But that didn't stop the ranking from coming out.

State bar associations, of course, have been negative toward lawyer and law firm rankings for some time. Some have been so restrictive that their efforts were invalidated in the federal courts (see the March 2010 ruling by the Second Circuit that declared most of New York's content-based attorney advertising rules unconstitutional) or state courts (as in New Jersey, which required a state supreme court ruling in 2009 to overturn a bar association ban on lawyers mentioning their ratings or inclusion in legal directories). The stated aim, as it often is with these bar organizations, is to "protect the public" from "misleading" comparisons about lawyers. That rankings might just give potential clients a better insight into which lawyer they want to hire is apparently beside the point.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ed Poll, LawBiz | Attorney Advertising

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