This is the worst idea ever. U.S. News & World Report is extending its raunchy franchise of ranking law schools and other educational institutions to law firms. Admittedly, it’s teaming up with Best Lawyers, which is not raunchy, but is not great either. Just old. We like abovethelaw.com a lot, and they have a pretty good summation. http://abovethelaw.com/2009/07/us_news_to_rank_law_firms_will.php
We guess the idea is if you don’t do a very good job ranking the schools where lawyers are educated, and you’re not making money, why not extended the franchise to law firms because – in theory – they will be suckered into buying books or advertising if you say they are great!
Uh, OK. Three things:
1) If you haven’t noticed, big law firms are cratering and their advertising budgets are crumbling. The first edition (if it actually comes out) is slated for Fall 2010.
2) The world of ranking lawyers and law firms is undergoing fundamental transformation as numerous sites (including Lawdragon – which introduced lawyer evaluations four years ago) make the whole rating industry accessible to a much broader array of interested parties than the old-school confined methodology of Best Lawyers and US News. And, true to form, US News says it will evaluate more than 3,000 law firms, surveying 40,000 private practice lawyers, 20,000 clients and thousands of law firm employees. Hey guys, check out the Internet (aka the Google machine). You can actually provide transparency and the ability for ALL law firm workers to evaluate their firm if you actually cared about a fair result.
3) Which leads us to the biggest problem. US News’ methodology for rating law schools is the single most criticized evaluative platform in the legal profession because it is wildly subjective and subject to gaming while purporting to be objective. Law schools are babes in the woods compared to the nation’s elite law firms, who will run rings around any attempt to compare, for example, a Cravath to a Skadden to a Wachtell.
Students actually rely on US News in their selection of law schools, routinely choosing more expensive or inappropriate schools for their aspirations simply based on whether a school is #6 or #7 on the list. The notion of impacting tens of thousands of career decisions more by building Potemkin suburbs is dreadful.