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Understanding “Super Lawyers”

Super Lawyers Michael Ehline
Michael Ehline Superlawyers profile

The Story

There are a few sites that rate purely personal injury lawyers. But there is one that breaks down the award by type of law practiced. Super Lawyers is the name of a famous service for rating attorneys that is different from Avvo in several ways. One way is that the rating given by Super Lawyers is not done numerically. It is also different in that there is a printed, magazine version that was around before they even had an attorney listing website. Many attorneys consider

Many attorneys consider Super Lawyers to be a real honor and achievement. It is somewhat of a peer review system, whereas Avvo is both a consumer and peer review system. But SL highly recognized in the law field, especially if you can afford a full page ad in the print magazine. Above is a screenshot of part of my Ehline Law Firm Super Lawyers online profile. As understood, it appears Findlaw now owns this prestigious attorney rating company.

A nomination for being ‘Rising Stars’ may also be in line for Super Lawyers, a choice that is much more selective. A stated above, not only does Super Lawyers provide a rating service, but they also publish state and region based magazines along with individual sections that are added to the city and regional magazines that are dispersed all over the country. The content that is featured in the magazine includes paid for ads and a list of lawyers and their profiles. For additional money, a user profile can be enhanced.


These magazines are circulated to lawyers and ABA law schools. Their list of publications include the lists for ‘Rising Stars’ which features the leading 2.5% of attorneys for each state and the listings for Super Lawyers which features the leading 5% of attorneys for each state, based on the criteria of Super Lawyers.

Process and Criteria Examination

The lists for Super Lawyers are generated from the four steps listed below:

I. Collecting the Pool of Candidates.

There are three different ways in which an attorney may be included in the pool of candidates.

  1. Formal Nominations – Attorneys can vote for other attorneys in their same state whose actions they have observed personally. There are ‘safeguards’ that have been implemented by Super Lawyers so the system cannot be ‘gamed’ by attorneys. For example, there is not nearly the amount of weight carried for nominating an attorney from a lawyer’s law firm as there is when nominating an attorney outside their law firm.

The process does however ultimately give attorneys the ability to nominate attorneys from their own firm, along with being able to nominate family members and friends. According to an article published in a Boston Business Journal, some attorneys feel as if the process for nomination is a contest for popularity. It is unlikely that Super Lawyers truly recognizes a ‘back scratch’ process for nominations without conducting a tremendous amount of research into the personal life and background of attorneys’.

It is also prohibited to campaign for nominations, according to Super Lawyers. However, the way this is enforced or even if it is actively enforced is not stated.

2. Star Search – There are over 150 sources through databases and on the internet, along with local and national publications for legal trade that are used by lawyers who work for Super Lawyers, which helps to categorize attorneys that have great credentials. The individual databases or sources they use online are not specified, however, it would be fair to assume that the United States News and World Report’s Best Law Firms or Avvo, or possibly even both are used. Especially when you consider both of these are highly regarded through the entire legal community.

The process by which attorneys are hired by Super Lawyers to conduct research is also questionable. A conflict of interest could occur quite easily among employed lawyers when they research candidates. For example, While looking for candidates, they may ‘locate’ a member of their family, a close friend, or a co-worker from their firm that works as a lawyer. Either of these cases would be of benefit of the attorney’s interests.

3. Informal Nominations – There is not any weight given to open nominations during the process of rating, according to Super Lawyers. However, clients, readers, and lawyers that hold a license in different states can choose to nominate an attorney and then they will be added to the candidate pool by Super Lawyers to be assessed further. It can be assumed that ‘readers’ does not refer to other lawyers, as a reiteration for Super Lawyers to list participants of open nominations would be unnecessary. It is not revealed just who ‘readers’ are, and it is not revealed how they qualify to nominate.

I. Assessing the Pool of Candidates.

Each candidate in the pool is then assessed by Super Lawyers and is based on the following:

  • Settlements and verdicts.
  • Transactions.
  • This refers to the amount that is awarded on cases that are won or settled. This award could be an indication of the quality of a lawyer, which may not necessarily be true. While the case of a great lawyer may receive awards following the worth of the case, the case of a horrible lawyer may only receive award amounts of 5 million dollars for an example that is worth 100 million dollars. To a person that is not familiar with cases, five million dollars can seem like a large amount of money, and it is unclear if investigations by Super Lawyers are being carried out to the depth of this indicator.
  • Clients represented.
  • Weight is given to clients an attorney has represented. To know the clients that a lawyer represents can be helpful in determining how good the attorney is. It can also be a tool to help determine the better a lawyer is and the cost and the demand of a particular attorney. However, it is a valid question as to the amount of weight given to this indicator.
  • Position held within the law firm
  • Experience
  • Community service and pro bono service as an attorney
  • Awards and honors
  • Employment and education background
  • Certifications and special licenses
  • Writings and scholarly lectures
  • Bar activities
  • Other professional activity
  • Other achievements that are outstanding
  • The meaning of this is not explained

Like the criteria used by Avvo, the weight given to these indicators is not provided.

I. Evaluation of Peers.

The pool is then separated into principal areas of practice. Out of all attorneys in a specific practice area, the candidates in the pool that have the maximum number of points are placed in the ‘blue ribbon panel,’ which then rates the candidates that remain. It would appear strange that attorneys competing to be ‘Super Lawyers’ decide whether or not candidates that are competing will be recognized or accepted. This is of course not to mention the possible conflict of interest. For instance, It would be simple for a blue ribbon panelist to base the rate they give to those working at the same law firm they do.

IV. Selection Process and Publishing

Lastly, the size of firms that pool candidates belong to is the basis used to separate them into categories. The pool candidates that have the maximum amount of points in their category of law firm size are selected as Super Lawyers. Before the list is published, Super Lawyers:

  • Perform searches on the internet to make sure no matters exist that would have an unfavorable effect on the attorney.
  • Checks the standing of each pool candidate against the local licensing authority.
  • Contacts attorneys for a confirmation that the information published is correct.
  • Asks pool candidates to provide a statement that they have never been a part of criminal or disciplinary proceedings.

It is a more selective process to choose a ‘Rising Star,’ as there are only 2.5 attorneys listed for each state. For an attorney to qualify for Rising Star, they have to either be 40 years old or have been in law practice for no more than ten years. The same selection process for choosing a Super Lawyer is also used for choosing Rising Stars. The only difference is that the Peer Evaluation is removed. Feature advertisements attorneys pay for, and Super Lawyers’ publications that appear in their magazine – There are five different ad options offered by Super Lawyers.

  1. Standard Profile
  2. Platinum Profile
  3. Impact Listings
  4. Display Advertising
  5. Online Profiles

The content and price of each of these options vary. Advertising is not a basis for choosing attorneys to be a Super Lawyer, according to Super Lawyers. However, it’s clear that attorneys who advertise more are much more visible within the legal community, which also means they will be likelier to be selected as a Super Lawyer.

Because the terms Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers could be an advertising tactic that is deceptive, New York State considered revising laws of advertising in 2006. In response to this, the publisher of Super Lawyers’ stated he feels the comparison is the heart of advertising.

He also states that advertising without comparison is not considered to be advertising. When an attorney is named a ‘Super Lawyer’, it suggests he is superior and more qualified to win clients’ cases than attorneys that have not received a rating. What the publisher is saying is a comparison must be made for advertisements to be effective, accurate or not.

In Summary

Regarding the Process and Criteria used by Super Lawyers

The problems they have are similar to Avvo:

  • The opinion of Super Lawyers on what they deem as a good attorney is a basis for the criteria used for Super Lawyers.
  • The weight given to criteria is not provided to the public
  • All of their magazine publications feature advertisements that are paid for by non-Super Lawyers and Super Lawyers.
  • According to the website of Super Lawyers, both attorneys and law schools alike receive publications. For example, An attorney’s chances are indirectly improved for winning a nomination.
  • The criteria used are possibly flawed.
  • Possible conflicts of interests are ignored with those that select Super Lawyers.


Michael Ehline - PI Law Tutorials

Michael Ehline is a highly trained personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, CA. He writes educational articles to help injured consumers.

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