Rankings by U.S. News & World Report are some of the most trusted nationwide classifications available. From higher education to health, a standing with U.S. News represents the institutions, practices and business who have garnered years of knowledge, expertise and professionalism. Consumers know that the reputations precede themselves amongst those ranked by U.S. News, and law firms are certainly no exception.

Entering the 13th edition of partnership with U.S. News & World Report, Best Lawyers® is currently in the submission process stage for the coveted “Best Law Firms” rankings. But it’s important to note what rankings are to understand why they are important and what they mean to firms and consumers alike.

What are “Best Law Firms” Rankings?

The “Best Law Firms” rankings are rankings of firm practice areas awarded to eligible firms each year. Eligibility is derived from having at least one lawyer listed in Best Lawyers. “Best Law Firms” rankings are awarded both nationally across the United States and within 188 metropolitan areas nationwide. There are 75 practice areas in which firms may be ranked on a national level and as many as 127 practice areas represented in the metropolitan rankings. Rankings are earned through participation in the submission process, which usually begins in the winter and ends in the spring. The timelines are posted each year.

What does the submission process include?

The submission process for “Best Law Firms” includes two key components: the Law Firm Survey and the Client/Professional References submissions.

What is the law firm survey, and why is it important?

Eligible firms are invited to fill out an annual law firm survey via a custom link sent through email. The survey gives us important demographic and marketing information regarding the firm. The survey is strictly participation based, meaning that firms who opt to participate in the survey will receive credit towards rankings simply for participating. Firms can fill in as much or as little of the survey data as they are comfortable with providing.

What are client and professional references submissions, and why do they matter?

Eligible firms are encouraged to submit the names, emails and practice area associations of clients they have represented as well as professionals with whom they have worked. Professional references can be individuals like judges, lawyers from other firms, opposing counsel, practice area professionals (doctors, real estate agents) who have worked with the firm and can attest to the firm’s strengths.

We suggest submitting at least three names in each eligible practice area, but there is no limit and firms are invited to submit as many names as they’d like. The more names we receive, the more data we can collect to put towards overall firm scores. Client and professional references can be:

  • Past or current
  • Submitted multiple years in a row
  • Submitted for multiple eligible specialties

Once firms have submitted all client/professional references, we send out custom surveys to each contact. We let them know which firm submitted them and for which practice area(s). The surveys are short and ask each client/reference to rank the firm 1-5 in six areas of criteria. The feedback is compiled and added to the firm’s overall score.

How is each component used to determine rankings?

As mentioned above, the law firm surveys are participation based. The information a firm provides is not part of the scoring process. Participation in the survey is what counts, and firms will receive a boost in their overall score simply for participating in the survey.  

Client/professional reference survey data is the most important component we use when scoring firms. These give us the most accurate view of a firm’s work through the perspective of clients and professionals, and the data we receive from these is the largest element of the scoring process. Firms are very strongly encouraged to submit clients and/or references.

What are tier rankings and how are they determined?

After the submission process closes (meaning we have received all submitted law firm surveys, all client/professional reference names have been submitted and all reference surveys have been completed), we begin compiling the data for each firm. The data goes into determining an overall score for each firm. Scores are then placed in brackets. The scores of firms in the same metropolitan and practice areas are compared with each other and based on where the scores fall in the brackets, tier rankings are awarded.

Tier 1: Firms who score within the highest bracket of scores receive Tier 1 rankings.

Tier 2: Firms who score within the second highest bracket of scores receive Tier 2 rankings.

Tier 3: Firms who score within the third highest bracket of scores receive Tier 3 rankings.

Firms who score too low in the brackets are not awarded rankings.

Where are rankings displayed?

After rankings have been awarded each year, “Best Law Firms” publishes them on their website. Additionally, a magazine is produced each year that includes all national and metropolitan Tier 1 rankings. Among our most read publications, the “Best Law Firms” publication is produced in print and digitally every year. Firms are invited to submit thought leadership whitepapers for this publication as well as advertise. With an audience of more than 32,000 general counsel members in print and more than 100,000 recipients of the digital edition, the “Best Law Firms” publication is one of the best and most effective ways for clients to seek legal counsel through trusted firms.

What can I do to help my firm become ranked?

The submission process is the most important asset a firm has in earning a tier ranking. Filling out the law firm survey by the deadline date and submitting clients and references will help firms boost their scores, thus assisting in efforts to become ranked. Rankings in U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” are among the top honors a law firm can receive, and we are delighted to provide firms this opportunity.

For questions about the process or assistance with submissions, please contact our “Best Law Firms” Manager, Valerie Smith, at vsmith@bestlaywers.com.