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Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public.
Selection process detail
Every year Super Lawyers selects attorneys from all firm sizes and over 70 practice areas throughout the United States. Learn about this detailed selection process below.
Lawyers enter the candidate pool by being formally nominated by a peer or if identified by the research department during the research process.
Once a year, we invite lawyers in each state to nominate the top attorneys they’ve personally observed in action. Lawyers may nominate attorneys in their own firm, but these nominations count only if each in-firm nomination is matched by at least one out-firm nomination.
Each nomination carries a point value and out-firm nominations have a greater point value than in-firm nominations. Lawyers cannot nominate themselves, and must limit their nominations to others who practice in the same state.
Our procedures and database have several safeguards that prevent lawyers from “gaming” the system. For example, we track who nominates whom. This helps us detect any excessive “back-scratch” nominations (lawyers nominating each other) and “block nominations” (where members of the same law firm all cast identical nominations). We also prohibit lawyers from engaging in “campaigning” or solicitation of nominations from other lawyers.
While important, the nomination phase is simply the first step in our process. It puts lawyers on our radar for further research and evaluation, and awards points in our rating system. But we limit the value of those points so that no matter how many nominations one receives, it will not guarantee selection.
Our attorney-led research staff searches for lawyers who have attained certain honors, results or credentials, which indicate a high degree of peer recognition or professional competence. For example, certification as a specialist in a particular area of practice, or admission to prestigious colleges or academies, e.g., The American College of Trial Lawyers. The staff identifies these credentials by reviewing a proprietary list of database and online sources, including national and local legal trade publications.
During the research process, we discover outstanding lawyers who have been overlooked in the nomination process. These may include: lawyers with national litigation practices who rarely appear in the courts of their home jurisdiction; lawyers in smaller firms or from smaller communities; and lawyers practicing in less visible or highly specialized practice areas.
Throughout the year, readers, clients, marketing directors and attorneys who are not eligible to formally nominate (that is, actively licensed to practice in the same state as the nominee) send us names of lawyers we should consider for inclusion. Though no points are awarded, we add these lawyers to the candidate pool for further research and evaluation.
Click here to view the regions that are currently taking nominations.
Our research department evaluates each lawyer in the candidate pool based on these 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement:
- Representative Clients
- Special licenses/certifications
- Position within the law firm
- Bar and/or professional activity
- Pro bono and community service
- Scholarly lectures/writings
- Education/employment background
- Other outstanding achievements
These indicators are not treated equally; some have a higher maximum point value than others.
The third step of the selection process is peer evaluation by practice area, also known as the “blue ribbon review.” The candidates in each practice area with the highest point totals from steps one and two above are asked to serve on a blue ribbon panel. The panelists are then provided a list of candidates from their practice areas to review, rating them on a scale of one to five.
Candidates are grouped into four firm-size categories. Those with the highest point totals from each category are selected. This means solo and small firm lawyers are compared with other solo and small firm lawyers, and large firm lawyers are compared with other large firm lawyers. Five percent of the total lawyers in the state are selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers.
The research staff checks each candidate’s standing with the local licensing authority. Each candidate is asked to aver that they have never been subject to disciplinary or criminal proceedings.
Final Internet searches are performed on each candidate to ensure there are no outstanding matters that would reflect adversely on the lawyer. We also contact each lawyer to ensure accuracy of all published information.
The final published list represents no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state. The lists are published annually in state and regional editions of Super Lawyers magazines and in inserts and special advertising sections in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers. All attorneys selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers, regardless of year, can be found on SuperLawyers.com.
The selection process for the Rising Stars list is the same as the Super Lawyers selection process, with one exception: to be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. All attorneys first go through the Super Lawyers selection process. Those who are not selected to the Super Lawyers list, but who meet either one of the Rising Stars eligibility requirements, go through the Rising Stars selection process. While up to five percent of the lawyers in the state are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list.
For questions on the research process, please email [email protected].
In the news
Super Lawyers selection process patented by the United States Patent and Trademark Office
In April 2013, the Super Lawyers selection process received a patent (U.S. Pat. No. 8,412,564) from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This distinction is relevant to both attorneys and consumers, as it further demonstrates credibility as an impartial third-party rating system.
Judicial comments about the Super Lawyers selection process
A Special Master who reviewed the details of the Super Lawyers selection process said the following in his Opinion:
“[The Super Lawyers selection process] is a comprehensive, good-faith and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers that have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field."
"Suffice to say, the selection procedures employed by [Super Lawyers] are very sophisticated, comprehensive and complex."
“It is absolutely clear from this record that [Super Lawyers does] not permit a lawyer to buy one’s way onto the list, nor is there any requirement for the purchase of any product for inclusion in the lists or any quid pro quo of any kind or nature associated with the evaluation and listing of an attorney or in the subsequent advertising of one’s inclusion in the lists.”