In shopping around for a new lawyer, you may have noticed that many lawyers proudly advertise that they have been awarded the “Super Lawyer” designation. As a matter of fact, with each new listing of Super Lawyers, more and more lawyers in the U.S. are being named Super Lawyers. In fact, it might seem that before too much longer, just about every lawyer in the U.S. may be able to claim to be a Super Lawyer.
But what does being a Super Lawyer really mean? Are Super Lawyers really super lawyers? Can an individual shopping for a lawyer rely upon a lawyer’s assertion that lawyer is a Super Lawyer as meaning that the lawyer is actually better than other lawyers?
As a former chair of my state bar association’s Legal Ethics Committee, I had an opportunity to examine this issue as some lawyers believe that it violates the Rules of Professional Responsibility (the lawyer’s ethics code) for an attorney to make “self laudatory” statements such as saying you are a “super” lawyer. Here is what I found. While many worthy attorneys are designated as Super Lawyers, I found that the designation does not necessarily mean that the Super Lawyers are any better than other lawyers who do not have the designation. What I concluded is that the Super Lawyer designation is really more of what I call a “social” designation such as like being named a “Kentucky Colonel” or an “Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.”
Of course, some social designations are based upon someone actually doing something significant. However, the Super Lawyer designation is not necessarily based upon something specifically significant a lawyer has done. Rather the designation is primarily based upon how many votes an attorney receives from other attorneys. Thus, it is more of a popularity contest and is not a true “professional” designation like a Martindale Hubbell AV rating.
So when shopping for an attorney, beware of relying upon designations the lawyer uses. They may not be true professional designations that are an accurate reflection of how good the lawyer really is or a reflection of something significant the lawyer has done. Rather, the designation may just be a sign that the lawyer is more popular with other lawyers.