Insight

Best Lawyers 40th Anniversary: Our past. Our today. Our future.

Best Lawyers is celebrating its 40th year as the original, trusted source for legal referrals.

Best Lawyers Celebrates 40 Years
RS

Rachel Shrewsbury

August 19, 2021 05:58 AM

Our Past

It’s hard to believe that it has already been 40 years since our founders, Steve Naifeh and the late Greg Smith, two Harvard Law School graduates, got together and built the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the global legal community, Best Lawyers. Could they have ever imagined their impact on so many people—attorneys worldwide, those clients who need a great attorney for their case, and the many hundreds of job opportunities at Best Lawyers?

One of those opportunities came in 2005 when Phillip Greer, a young professional from a small town outside of Augusta, Georgia, joined our team. Over the years, he wore many hats within the company—with each providing a unique opportunity to help grow and expand our capabilities. In 2013 he became President and in 2018 became CEO after Naifeh announced his retirement.

Over the last several years, he has led over 50 employees in offices in Georgia, Florida and New York—and oversees relationships with 78,944 lawyers and 18,667 law firms in 75 countries. But if you ask anyone here at Best Lawyers about our CEO, they’d tell you he has cultivated an authentic organization. One where he works alongside you to debug something on the website. Or have impromptu idea-sharing sessions while managing to have fun and laugh, despite being separated in home offices hundreds of miles away from one another. It’s this culture that has sustained us through difficult times and contributed to our continued growth. When we asked him what Best Lawyers has meant to him, he had this to say: “While I wasn’t part of the foundation of Best Lawyers in 1981, I was privileged to be a major key in its digital renaissance. To create the core systems that we still use today, the systems that expanded our rankings around the globe, the systems that allow our research team to analyze over 15 million data points each year. With each iterative expansion of Best Lawyers, my career followed a similar path. Starting as Lead Software Engineer and being promoted to Director of IT, Chief Operating Officer, President, and now CEO. Best Lawyers for me holds a parallel of my professional life work alongside my professional career evolution.”

Best Lawyers Founder and CEO

Our Today

Since 1981, we have produced 28 editions of The Best Lawyers in America. Since our first edition, 425 lawyers have been listed annually—which is an incredible figure and a testament to the amazing success and career achievements of our listed lawyers. We currently stand at 66,596 listed lawyers for the 2022 publication. This year was also the inaugural year for Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch, which recognizes associates and other lawyers who have been in private practice for less than ten years in the United States. So far, our Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch 2022 includes 14,480 exceptional associates practicing in the United States.

Our expanding global footprint is yet another big development over the past few years, with a global presence in 75 countries—and steadily growing. According to Greer, “the continued success and reputation of Best Lawyers starts with our foundation. From the beginning, our goal was to solve a problem—how does someone find the best lawyers for a particular matter, especially if that person is unfamiliar with the intricacy of the legal market? Trust and expertise are absolutely the keys to answering that question. To build trust, we knew that our research process had to be transparent and understandable. To build expertise, we needed to go to the source. Our purely peer-review process still holds up today, and we have been able to expand into over 75 countries based on the technology and research we have developed.”

With us today is the Best Lawyers Board of Advisors, comprised of an esteemed group of distinguished legal professionals from around the world. Almost 400 organizations are currently represented, including leaders from many of the world's preeminent law firms and general counsel from Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies. It has truly been an honor and privilege to partner with our Advisory Board, and we owe so much of our growth and success to their continued guidance and support.

Several members of our Advisory Board have been recognized by us since the very beginning. One such member, Donald C. Schiller of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP and recognized since 1983 in Family Law, had this to say about our 40-year history together: “When Naifeh and Smith first published Best Lawyers, I was a relatively young aspiring lawyer trying to become a respected expert in the family law practice. Then out of nowhere, I was informed that after research and peer review, I was selected as one of Illinois’ best lawyers in family law and that I would be listed in Best Lawyers in America. I think Best Lawyers was the first book of its kind. No one solicited me to pay anything to be recognized nor buy an ad to be included. I was deeply honored and felt my hard work since becoming a lawyer really paid off and that I achieved my goal of being a respected expert in the family law practice. My continuing to be listed year after year is very satisfying to me and encourages me that I have been on the right track and to keep going.”

When asked how being a member of the Best Lawyers Advisory Board and being listed in the original legal referral guide enhanced his career, he replied: “There is no question that being one of the relatively few selected and my listing in the original legal referral guide enhanced my reputation considerably and likely made me a better lawyer. I was driven to prove my selection was no accident and that I was worthy of it and would continue to be. To add to that, being chosen to serve on the advisory board was a wonderful experience as well as a serious responsibility. Meeting with and getting to know outstanding lawyers from throughout the country expanded my own fund of knowledge and was a wonderful networking opportunity with the best of the best. Remember, there were no virtual meetings back then.”

Our Future

Virtual meetings, new tech and adapting to the disruptive currents in our world seem to be what’s taking form within the crystal ball. Despite the curveballs the past two years have tossed our way, we’ve continued a growth trajectory. “I joined Best Lawyers over 16 years ago with the task of digitizing and expanding the capabilities of this company,” said Philip Greer. “In those 16 plus years, we have successfully grown into an international ranking house, producing not only peer-review lawyer rankings, but also law firm rankings in the United States and a general lawyer directory for all private practicing attorneys. I see Best Lawyers continuing to grow our research, rankings and content capabilities to further meet the needs of the legal, corporate and consumer sectors when it comes to trusted sources for professional services.”

While there are many things changing, much of what has driven our success isn’t changing a bit. “For the next 40 years, I would see us expanding into new countries and languages of content, but all still built around the same core methodology,” said Kristen Greer, Senior Research Manager. “We also have a great team to be able to accomplish all that we have! Best Lawyers has been my work home for more than a decade and has given me the chance to launch new projects and bring them up to the success they enjoy today. I’ve worn many hats and appreciate that experience!”

And we can’t talk about our future without mentioning the new and aspiring attorneys. After all, “our” means these exceptional young professionals as well. So, we asked a few members of our Best Lawyers Advisory Board what advice they would give new lawyers who are just getting started in their careers, and here is what they had to say.

“New lawyers need to understand that their law diploma is a license to learn,” said James Fox Miller of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and recognized since 1983 in Family Law. “Practicing law is a craft that can always be improved upon. Never stop learning. Never think you now know it all. I am 82, still practicing and strive each day to know more than I did the day before. Be ethical and honest. Always be prepared and always do your best.”

Emily A. Parker of Holland & Knight LLP and recognized since 1983 in Litigation and Controversy – Tax and Tax Law, recommends new lawyers “find an area of the law and people that you enjoy so that the many hours spent working are a pleasure rather than a burden.”

And so much about finding success as a lawyer is honing your skills the old-fashioned way—no shortcuts. “I tell new lawyers to watch their colleagues as well as opposing lawyers closely,” said Schiller. “Sit in courtrooms and watch hearings and trials. Learn to write well and concisely and not to be redundant and use big words just to show off. Copy the good things you see and avoid the bad. Lawyers need to achieve good results and be respected by the courts they appear before to be successful. You cannot fake it.”

We couldn’t agree more—and we look forward to the next 40 years of recognizing exceptionally gifted lawyers from all over the world. Cheers to you—and our past, present and future together.

Rachel Shrewsbury grew up in Mobile, Alabama and now lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, Greg, and long haired piebald mini dachshund, Aubrie. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Rachel’s 14-year marketing career has ignited her passion for writing and storytelling.

Headline Image: Eleni Tzinakos

Related Articles

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

How Peer Review Powers Industry Referrals


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers combines the trust of industry referrals with state-of-the-art technology to help clients find the right lawyer.

Four people searching in their smartphone with the Best Lawyers methodology wheel over top

Big Rig, Big Responsibility


by Theodore Babbitt

The nation’s highways are more clogged than ever with 40-ton 18-wheelers that don’t take safety seriously enough. This must change—and it’s up to both state governments and private industry to make it happen.

Trucking Safety in Florida

Georgia Laws Taking Effect in 2022


by Gregory Sirico

Three new pieces of Georgia legislation aim to improve medical bill transparency, lower the sales tax on vehicles and enact further safeguards to protect children in foster care.

New Georgia Laws Enacted in 2022

Cost to Boss


by Gregory Sirico

New Colorado legislation aims to stop employers from dodging direct negligence claims.

Employers Dodge Direct Negligence Claims

South Florida "Lawyer of the Year"


by Best Lawyers

Jerry Hamilton is honored as 2022 "Lawyer of the Year" in Admiralty and Maritime Law for Miami.

South Florida "Lawyer of the Year"

Checks and Balances


by Michael Sullivan

Ensuring probity and above-board behaviour in both the public and private sector is always important—and that importance can be particularly stark during a major crisis like the pandemic. An overview of a year’s worth of commissions and inquiries.

Australian Commission Governance Structure

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the Puerto Rico


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

2022 Best Lawyers® in the Puerto Rico

The Inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada's inaugural edition is here. We talk with Kristen Greer, Best Lawyers Senior Research Manager, on the prestige of these awards.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada 2022

Canadian Women in the Legal Profession: From Non-‘Persons’ to Chief Justices


by Sara Collin

We take an in-depth look at the challenges and optimistic future of women in the Canadian legal sector.

Canadian Women in the Legal Profession

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch – The Future of Legal Talent Looks Bright


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch is launching its second edition in the United States, and after talking with both a company leader and esteemed lawyers on the list, the importance of this prestigious list is evident.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2022

Best Lawyers: A Technology Powerhouse in the Legal Industry


by John Ettorre

Best Lawyers, a legal publishing company, is paving the way in the industry as a tech-first giant.

Best Lawyers is a Tech-First Titan

The Great Debate Between Agriculture, Mining and Environment


by Rebecca Hoare

Can we really have it all?  The pursuit of the harmonious intersection of Australia’s agricultural and resources industries and the environment.

Australia Agriculture, Mining & Environment

Tales From the Crypto


by Gregory Sirico

The economic turmoil of COVID-19 has given cryptocurrency its moment in the spotlight. But are we, and more importantly our banks, ready for it?

Cryptocurrency on the Rise During COVID-19

Summer Voting Season Is Here!


by Best Lawyers

Summer 2021 voting is open to all lawyers listed in Best Lawyers in Chile, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa and Spain.

How To Vote On Your Best Lawyers Ballot

Morrison & Foerster Attorney Randy Bullard’s LGBTI Advocacy


by Greg Sirico

Randy Bullard, a Best Lawyers® listed attorney practicing at Morrison & Foerster, is an LGBTQI advocate and pioneer for change around the world.

Morrison & Foerster Attorney Randy Bullard's

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Belgium™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Belgium.

Black, yellow and red stripes

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France

We Are Women, We Are Fearless


by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

What If Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Had a Premarital Agreement?


by John M. Goralka

Oh, the gritty details we’re learning from the latest court battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. This unfortunate airing of dirty laundry may have been avoided with a prenup. Should you think about getting one yourself?

What If Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Had Prenup?

U.K. Introduces Revisions to Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules


by Gregory Sirico

Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules in

Destiny Fulfilled


by Sara Collin

Was Angela Reddock-Wright destined to become a lawyer? It sure seems that way. Yet her path was circuitous. This accomplished employment attorney, turned mediator, arbitrator and ADR specialist nonpareil discusses her career, the role of attorneys in society, the new world of post-pandemic work and why new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the future.

Interview with Lawyer Angela Reddock-Wright

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?