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Best Law Firms List Announced by 'U.S. News': Should You Care?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 05, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

They've tweaked the curve, but the bottom line is the same: Who really cares about the new "Best Law Firms" rankings by U.S. News and World Report?

The folks at U.S. News and Best Lawyers sure do. Their "Best Law Firms" publication is a growing business, and the new second-annual list is being described as better than ever.

It also appears law firms named as being the best in the country care too. An internet search finds dozens of firms have recently issued press releases to tout their new top-tier rankings.

That could be helpful information for clients looking for the best lawyers -- but not so much for out-of-work and new attorneys looking for a good job. Especially, as one recruiter noted, 80 percent of big firms will only consider job candidates who are currently employed.

Alas, a firm's hiring or firing rate does not factor into the "Best Law Firms" determination. But those factors do include:

  • Whether the firm has at least one lawyer included in Best Lawyers;
  • Client feedback regarding expertise, responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, and civility; and
  • Attorney opinions about the firm's expertise, integrity, and worthiness as a competitor.

In another change from last year, the 2011-12 "Best Law Firms" list now also names a "Law Firm of the Year" in each of 75 practice areas. That seems to be in response to rank-obsessed attorneys, unhappy that the list used to rank firms only by tier.

The tiers aren't gone, but the secret formula to compare them has been modified. Still, as Inside Counsel observes, most of the big winners are familiar names.

With the new "Best Law Firms" list, attorneys looking for work may have a new tool to target their resumes. But to paraphrase one disgruntled attorney lamenting last year's list: Who cares, when nobody can even get a job?

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