Posted Sep 15, 2010 11:49 am CDT
There is no overall top-to-bottom ranking of law firms in a new assessment by U.S. News & World Report, but that hasn’t stopped two law firms from tallying their number of top-tier rankings and declaring themselves No. 1.
Sidley Austin counted its top-tier rankings in national practice areas—it has 20 in all—and declared in a press release that it topped every other firm in the survey on the national level. K&L Gates, on the other hand, tallied its rankings in both national and regional practice areas—it has 118 in all, including seven in national practice areas—and issued a press release saying that it had the most.
U.S. News partnered with Best Lawyers to rank nearly 9,000 law firms in 81 practice areas in 171 metropolitan areas and seven states. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog confessed to being a little disappointed by the lack of an overall ranking. Instead, the blog explains, the publications “divvied up the law-firm world into practice areas and, within each practice area, separated the firms into tiers. Fair enough, U.S. News. And probably sensible, but a lot less fun than a straight numerical ranking.”
A National Law Journal story on the rankings tallies the tier rankings for each law firm mentioned. The publication interviewed Jeffrey Stone, co-chairman of McDermott Will & Emery, which in the national rankings had seven tier-one spots, three in tier two and three in tier three.
“I don’t think that this additional ranking, in and of itself, is a game changer,” Stone said. “When clients are selecting attorneys, there is no single source of information that is dispositive. They look at rankings, client experience and word of mouth, among other things.”
Above the Law sees a strategy behind the U.S. News tiers. “U.S. News wanted to make as many firms feel included as possible,” the blog says. “If they had given us the top 100 firms (like we wanted) then only the couple hundred firms that had a chance to ever make that list would really care about the rankings. By doing it this way, there are now thousands of firms who have a stake in moving up this U.S. News list.”
U.S. News has companion stories on corporate pressure for lower and alternative fees, a profile of how Holland & Hart weathered the recession, an interview with Indiana University law professor William Henderson on the future of the profession, a story chronicling law school tuition increases, and an explanation of its methodology.
U.S. News and Best Lawyers created their rankings through surveys of law firm clients, best-ranked lawyers, and law firms. More than 9,500 clients returned surveys, as did more than 1,800 law firm recruiting officers and marketing officers.