The problem with "Best Lawyer" directories.

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An article in the Wall Street Journal details the proliferation of "Best Lawyer / Attorney / Lawfirm" directories. From the article:

"A proliferation of attorney awards and rankings—more than 1,200 by one count—is inundating law-firm marketing departments, and an industry of consultants has popped up to guide firms through the submissions process."

We're seeing a proliferation of 'mutual admiration society' legal directories that entice lawyers and law firms into paying them for the honor or recognition.

But wait - isn't this site a "best-of" lawyer directory?

Yes. But this site is different in one very important way: no lawyer can pay to be listed here. The lawyers listed as having the best results in front of a particular judge are there because our algorithm says they have the best results in front of that judge. There's no 'peer-review,' no secret ($$) formula, no score based on some opaque amalgamation of years in practice and number of toes. You can read about how our system works here, if you're so inclined.

Look - I get it. I've gotten the letters saying my 'peers' have selected me to receive the exclusive honor of paying some marketing group $300 in order to get a plaque and a backlink to my lawfirm's website. I've even paid the $300. I put the plaque on my wall. I believed that plaque would be some kind of magic client-magnet. It wasn't.

How do we fix this?

The problem with lawyer directories like "Best 11-Toed Lawyers in Wakulla County" is that people in need of a good lawyer have no idea what they really mean, let alone if lawyers in the directory are really good or not. Not one pay-to-play best-of directory takes courtroom results into account. They don't measure client satisfaction. When all a directory requires is a pulse, a valid bar license, and $300 it can't tell you whether a divorce lawyer is actually going to care about your family situation or whether they'll just cash your retainer and have their paralegal fill out the standard forms with bad information.

People facing the court system have very little information. Court systems are opaque - they're like a black box. Most people who go to court have never been there before. The main idea behind this startup is finding a way to bridge that gap by using publicly available court data in new ways. We want to show people what happens in cases like theirs, and which lawyers get the best results for their clients.

I'm not going to say that pay-to-play lawyer awards are predatory, but in a way they prey on people's ignorance about the court system and lawyers in general.

We want to fix that. We don't think just data is the key. We think making that data useful and understandable to people facing the court system is the key to fixing this.

photo credit: wuestenigel Sektempfang via photopin (license)