Important New Legal Marketing Study: Attorney Rankings Don’t Drive In-House Decision-Making

MyRank attorney friends reading this may wish to cover their eyes before reading this column. But a new survey reinforces what many of in the legal marketing professional already believe—attorney rankings (Chambers, Best Lawyers in America, Super Lawyers, etc.) don’t help win client engagements.

Conducted by Greentarget, InsideCounsel and Zeughauser Group, the 2013 In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey pulls no punches about the effectiveness of these rankings. From the report:

“Peer-driven rankings: if a tree were to fall…. Two percent (2%) of in-house counsel say their decisions to retain outside counsel are influenced to a “great extent” by peer-driven rankings (Chambers, U.S. News-Best Lawyers, etc.)”

In other words, 98 percent of in-house counsel don’t put much stock in attorney rankings when making hiring decisions.

Attorneys don’t want to hear this. Few legal marketing exercises get the attention of a firm’s membership faster than the latest round of attorney rankings. Legal marketers feel constant pressure to spend time on strategies to get more attorneys ranked. Many of these rankings require a substantial financial commitment or, at the minimum, a significant investment of staff time (I’m looking at you, Chambers!)

Thankfully, the In-House Counsel New Media Engagement Survey also lets us know what does lead to engagements: personal relationships, well-written attorney bios, public speaking, published writing and insightful blogging. General counsel surveyed said these factors were much more influential on their hiring decisions than attorney rankings.

Do Chambers, Best Lawyers, etc. have any value? Absolutely. Getting ranking on these lists can get an attorney or the firm some valuable earned media coverage, although with many newspapers shrinking their local news coverage, landing this type of coverage is becoming more difficult.

The major benefit of attorney rankings is the morale boost it gives to the lawyers so honored. Like the rest of us, attorneys work hard and take tremendous pride in what they do. There is something to be said for recognizing their efforts—all of us appreciate an “Attaboy!” or “Attagirl!” for a job well done.

However, lawyers and legal marketers need to face facts that attorney rankings aren’t likely to result in new business. Once that truth is acknowledged, then attorneys and their support staff can make informed decisions as to how much time and money should be devoted to applying for, promoting and publicizing attorney rankings.

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Bruce Buchanan

About Bruce Buchanan

After a 10-year career as a newspaper reporter, I've been the Marketing Copywriter for Womble Carlyle since 2006. My job has involved pretty much any type of communication that a 550-attorney, 14-office law firm might need. I'm based in the firm's Greensboro, N.C. office.

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