Every profession continues to be in a transitory state as it adapts to the continuous challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The legal profession is no exception, though it has proven its resilience in the way of virtual hearings and depositions and lawyers’ ability to creatively resolve matters rather than prepare for trials with no start date in sight.

With so much work happening remotely, it’s important to highlight the progress and achievements of rising legal professionals who are making impactful results in and out of the courtroom. That is why the second edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America is so special.

This year’s list has grown to 14,465 listed lawyers in the U.S. who are demonstrating professional excellence in private practice – from administrative law to workers’ compensation. Just as with The Best Lawyers in America list, the methodology for determining Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch remains based in peer-review, where all currently listed lawyers may vote on other candidates via carefully curated ballots for each voter.

“A candidate will only be eligible for Ones to Watch for three to four years before possibly making partner and hopefully transitioning to become a nominee for the traditional Best Lawyers awards,” said Best Lawyers Director of Research & Development and Managing Editor Elizabeth Petit.

Petit said there was a demand to highlight attorneys earlier in their careers, because of the rampant competition in the profession.

“The legal industry needs these awards because there are fantastic attorneys doing great work as associates and special counsel,” she noted. “You do not just become great at your job once you are named partner, you have to have shown excellent results all along the way. We are proud to highlight those attorneys and help them distinguish their work from their peers. Clients also can feel good about selecting a specific lawyer who has third-party verification for their own needs.”

The Perspective From the Listed Lawyers in Best Lawyers: Ones To Watch

Christopher J. Toepp, a trial attorney of the Virginia injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen was listed in the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch. He was inspired to pass the bar following the legal services he received several years ago after surviving a catastrophic tractor-trailer collision.

Toepp said earning the recognition amid the first major wave of the pandemic was particularly special because so much had to be accomplished remotely, and he is using it as motivation to maintain the reputation that comes with the award.

“I follow in the footsteps of a number of my partners who have been recognized by Best Lawyers for many years,” said Toepp, who was named partner and trial attorney in 2021. “Hopefully, in the years to come, I can join them in the ranks of The Best Lawyers in America.”

Megan N. Creson is an associate at the general practice firm of Lowther Johnson in Missouri. She was inspired to enter the profession by the careers of her parents, who are small business owners, and now serves clients engaged in similar business and commercial matters.

She said her recognition last year was a “nice spin-up” amid a time when so much was hanging in the balance. Perhaps more importantly, she said, being named in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch enhanced her professional profile and helped her attract new clients.

“I have had several people hire me after seeing I received this national recognition,” she said.

Providing a Glimpse of Future Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch produces lists for the U.S., Canada, Germany and France, with future awards being planned for Australia, Japan and Spain. With each Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch edition, readers will gain insight on how the profession is evolving – from new firms and regional expansion to specialized practice areas.

The U.S. data already notes a demographic shift in the field, and even a contrast from other Best Lawyers publications.

“For Best Lawyers, we have 21% representation of female attorneys and 0.08% representation for non-gendered attorneys,” Elizabeth said. “For Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch, females have 46% representation, and non-gendered attorneys make up 0.43% of the awards. This is due to positive changes in the demographics of the industry as a whole.” 

But in addition to this progress, how else can the Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch research provide a view of the future of the legal profession? Elizabeth said it is already showing how it will “undoubtedly look different” than it has historically.  

“We have seen a significant improvement in diverse representation in the next generation of great attorneys,” she said. “Additionally, these attorneys are asking bold questions about established expectations. Success may soon look very different thanks to the new generation and changes in business practices and career roadmaps.”

Quality of character is thankfully not expected to change much, though, as awardees like Toepp are committed to preserving the tradition of paying it forward and engaging in the Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch voting process.

“I will always seek to support and vote for other nominees,” Toepp said. “It is critically important that people in the community have an accurate resource to consult when selecting a lawyer, and Best Lawyers provides that service. Through our collective support in placing the most deserving candidates on the Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch list, we are furthering the legal profession.” 


Justin Smulison is a professional writer who regularly contributes to Best Lawyers. He was previously a reporter for the New York Law Journal and also led content and production for the Custom Projects Group at ALM Media. In addition to his various credited and uncredited writing projects, he has developed global audiences hosting and producing podcasts and audio interviews for professional organizations and music sites.