Super lawyers, rising stars, best lawyers and other attorney advertising in Texas

Super Lawyers is a division of Thompson Reuters, a private mass media and information business. People searching for lawyers or attorneys almost certainly will see law firms advertising Super Lawyers designations. These include Super Lawyers and Super Lawyers Rising Stars. People searching for lawyers may be impressed by this designation although they don’t really know what it means. After all, it sounds…super? Super Lawyers primarily serves two purposes. It publishes its list of selected Super Lawyers, which it claims to select by a “patented process”. It also sells advertisements in its Super Lawyers magazine and other Thompson Reuters publications. You might ask how attorneys receive recognition by Super Lawyers and what standard applies to the recognition. After all, many Texas lawyers advertise recognition in Super Lawyers. Today’s post will address some of these issues.

Is Super Lawyers part of the State Bar of Texas?

No, Super Lawyers has no relationship to the State Bar of Texas. The State Bar of Texas does not endorse Super Lawyers or participate in its recognition. The State Bar of Texas licenses attorneys and operates its own certification programs like the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the College of the State Bar of Texas. The State Bar of Texas does not operate or affiliate with Super Lawyers or any other for-profit accreditation of attorneys.

Is Super Lawyers part of the American Bar Association?

No, Super Lawyers has no relationship to the American Bar Association. The ABA does not endorse or participate in the Super Lawyers recognition process. The American Bar Association has no affiliation with Super Lawyers and does not review the selection of attorneys for Super Lawyers.

Is Super Lawyers part of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization?

No, Super Lawyers has no relationship to the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. TBLS does not endorse or participate in the Super Lawyers recognitions. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization awards designations of legal specialization in areas of law pursuant to meeting specific experience, educational and testing standards. TBLS awards designations on an area of law specific basis to attorneys in Texas.

Does Super Lawyers recognization allow an attorney to claim specialization by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization?

No, Super Lawyers recognition only allows an attorney to advertise recognition by Super Lawyers. A lawyer board certified by TBLS has met the TBLS standards to receive that designation. Legal specialization does not make an attorney a Super Lawyer or vice versa.

How does Super Lawyers claim to select attorneys for recognition?

Super Lawyers claims its selection process begins by assembling a list of lawyers from “independent research” and peer evaluations. It typically sends out requests for peer recommendations each year. Super Lawyers then compiles a score on each identified attorney.

The top attorneys then receive recognition on one or more Super Lawyers list. Super Lawyers does not explain explicitly how it scores attorneys or what factors contribute.

Super Lawyers obtained a patent on its process and advertises its selection process as a patented process. The patent describes it as:

The present invention provides for a system and method of identifying excellence within a profession. In one embodiment, excellent performing candidates within a profession group are identified by creating a candidate pool from independent research and a peer nomination process. Identified candidates then obtain a score according to an independent research and objective evaluation process. Peer evaluators contribute to this score by evaluating top-scoring candidates, and a total score is compiled for each identified candidate. Candidates with scores in a top percentage of the candidates are then recognized as demonstrating excellent performance in the profession group.

Does buying advertising with Super Lawyers result in recognition as a Super Lawyer or Rising Star?

Super Lawyers maintains that the advertising and selection processes are distinct. It claims the selection process occurs before Super Lawyers attempts to sell advertising. Some attorneys claim otherwise, allegedly indicating that an offer to buy advertisements with Super Lawyers resulted in an inclusion of a lawyer who otherwise was not targeted on the list.

It is possible that advertisement purchases or affiliation with a law firm that advertises with Super Lawyers is one factor in the scoring process. I do not know which is true or under what circumstances advertising may have affected recognition as a Super Lawyer.

Have you ever purchased Super Lawyers advertising? Has Super Lawyers approached you to buy advertising?

No, so I have no actual knowledge whether allegations that Super Lawyers ties advertising to recognition. If Super Lawyers approached me to buy advertising I do not recall.

Does Super Lawyers require a test for inclusion?

No. Unlike the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, there is no testing procedure for inclusion in Super Lawyers.

Does recognition as a Super Lawyer mean the lawyer is really super?

Well, maybe recognized lawyers are super; but under the lawyer advertising rules of many states a lawyer may not advertise an accolade that cannot be objectively tested like, “I am a super lawyer!” A lawyer can advertise recognition by Super Lawyers because the presence on the list can be objectively tested. Texas allows lawyers to advertise recognition as a Super Lawyer.

Is Super Lawyers a Texas bar association?

No, Super Lawyers is not a bar association. Attorneys do not join Super Lawyers or participate in Super Lawyers in the same manner as the Dallas Bar Association or the Tarrant County Bar Association in Fort Worth, Texas.

Are Super Lawyers good lawyers?

I cannot speak to every attorney designated as a Super Lawyer. I consider many of the Texas lawyers on the list to be very good lawyers. I generally recommend not relying upon any single resource or marketing entity to select a lawyer. Consider many resources and your needs as a client. You may want to consider Super Lawyers as one resource to select lawyers.

Are there any objective lawyer ratings services that do not market advertising to lawyers?

The State Bar of Texas recognizes lawyers as members of the Texas Bar College if they complete twice the continuing legal education requirement for State Bar of Texas dues; however, this organization charges a fee on top of its educational requirement. The Texas Bar College does not rank lawyers but it is a special designation. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization described above also issues legal specialization designations but it does not rank lawyers.

Most other lawyer rating sites where you might find Dallas or Fort Worth lawyers are private businesses. They may or may not adjust rankings or recognitions based upon buying advertisements. There is disagreement whether AVVO allegedly adjusts overall scores based on advertisements (again I have no personal knowledge either way); however, it awards recognition to lawyers for positive client reviews, peer endorsements and answering questions on its site.

Is Super Lawyers legitimate?

Depends on what you mean by legitimate. Thompson Reuters is an extremely reputable publisher and provider of services to the legal industry. Do the factors considered by Super Lawyers legitimately separate the “super” lawyers from any other lawyer? There are a lot of great attorneys who do not receive Super Lawyers nominations.

As somebody who receives a steady stream of offers to join lists of supposed attorney distinctions I do not put much weight into them. I cannot say whether Super Lawyers uses worthwhile factors but I do not believe a general list of factors necessarily means an attorney right for you or your case.

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