Attorney and Practice Magazine recently invited Patrick Barone “membership” as one of Michigan’s Top 10 Attorneys. The bar to entry? Payment of either $295 for 2020, $295 for 2021 or $590 for both years. Subsequent to payment, Mr. Barone would have available to him a host of impressive materials, from a nice looking website badge to a all plaque to be proudly displayed on the office wall.
Lawyer Ratings Have Become Big Business
In the last decade lawyer ratings have become big business. Most of them consist of a few lawyers getting together and deciding they can get rich by offering paid-for credentials to other lawyers. Several times per month at the criminal defense lawyers at the Barone Defense Firm receive solicitations to be listed on this “top 10 list,” or that “nation’s best list,” usually with the only bar to entry a small payment of usually about $300-$500.
This week Mr. Barone received another such offer, and this blog post followed. The solicitation letter from “Attorney and Practice” magazine begins with congratulations, then offers Mr. Barone, the opportunity to become a member of “our 2020/2021 Top 10 Attorney list.” The solicitation letter continues
You have been chosen as the TOP 10 Attorneys in Michigan for your practice area. Because of our stringent standards, less than 1% of attorneys nationwide will receive this invitation. When compiling our Top 10 Attorney DUI Defense Law list we considered and evaluated your degree and/or advanced degrees, years practicing DUI Defense Law, awards received, online reputation, professional associations and activities in those associations, and/or speaking engagements.
Sounds impressive right?
Brief History of Lawyer Ratings
There was a time when it was considered unprofessional for lawyers to advertise their services. This meant lawyers had to find clients the old-fashioned way, namely, obtaining referrals from other lawyers.This required the hard work of actually developing a reputation for excellence. When other lawyers took notice, referrals followed. But no one lawyer knows enough other lawyers to make a good referral for a client needing the services of a different lawyer outside their practice area.
This problem created a need for legal directories because a lawyer handling white collar criminal defense may not know of any lawyers who handle drunk driving cases, or business law or estate planning, and so on. To help their client, and to make an appropriate referral, said lawyer would then go to the inveterate Martindale Hubble, widely recognized even today as the most well-respected lawyer directory dating back to 1868. There is a charge to be listed in this directory and they also offer peer-reviewed ratings of 1-5 for expertise and a “letter” rating for ethics (look for an AV ratingm their highest and most prestigious). Obtaining an MH rating is free, but is no easy task. An MH rating requires input from lawyers who can personally vouch for the lawyer being rated. Obtaining an AV rating a time consuming and extensive process, but it also actually means something. (Yes, Mr. Barone is AV rated, and has been for many years).
In 1977 the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) effectively “legalized” lawyer advertising. Since this time lawyer advertising has become ubiquitous. Until the late 90’s the best place to advertise was the yellow pages. Now, with the advent of the internet, it’s much easier and less expensive to advertise services, but therefore, it’s become more important to distinguish oneself from other lawyers in the same field. One way to do this is to include impressive awards. The trouble for the clients is that lawyer rating services have almost become fake news. Many such ratings are illegitimate. They sound good, but the only real vetting process is whether the lawyer writes the check. Pay the money, earn the credential.
How to Know if a Lawyer Rating or Badge is Legitimate
Without avoiding the question, the best way to find a lawyer is the old-fashioned way – a referral from another trusted professional who has personal knowledge of the lawyer’s expertise. Short of that, research the credential. Look for an indication of peer review and try to determine if the rating service requires an actual vetting process. Martindale Hubble’s ratings are still reliable, as are the ratings of Super Lawyers, AVVO, Leading Advisor and US News and World Report.
If you are looking to hire a lawyer right now, then you may wish to read this article “How Do I Find a Top Michigan DUI Lawyer.” The basic concept applies to any kind of lawyer, including all kinds of criminal defense lawyers, and is worth reading and following.
Also, contact the lawyers and the Barone Defense Firm for a free case review. As you call different lawyers you will learn a lot about them simply from the way they and their staff interact with you. Then, following the advice contained in the above article, and make your highly informed decision. The lawyer you hire can make a big difference in the outcome you obtain so it’s well worth your due diligence.