Pearls of Wisdom: Celebrating 30 Editions of Best Lawyers’ Rankings

In celebration of our landmark 30th edition, Best Lawyers’ leadership explains how the world’s original and most trusted legal awards maintain their esteem, integrity and reputation for excellence among the top legal entities and their clients.

Best Lawyers logo for 30th edition release with gold glitter in background
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

August 16, 2023 11:00 PM

Prized as symbols of wisdom, hard-won experience and inherent value, pearls and lawyers alike embody a sense of elegance and refinement. Pearls emerge from brackish water, lawyers battle in stormy legal seas. Possessing a timeless allure and sophistication, both have long been coveted objects of public fascination.

As Best Lawyers® launches the milestone 30th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®, it’s therefore fitting that we feature the qualities of lawyers, firms and the legal industry overall that exude pearlescent brilliance and lasting impact. They’re illustrious, these hidden gems, and their worth is amply on display in this year’s awards.

As Best Lawyers plans for a record 30 editions in 2024, there is much to say about the influence these honors have exerted on the profession. “American lawyers have their hands in the core of our democracy, shaping the legal landscape,” says Phillip Greer, Best Lawyers’ CEO, remarking on the significance—for lawyers and clients alike—of seeing the Best Lawyers signet alongside an attorney’s accolades. “The legal profession, revered as the epitome of excellence, embodies the pursuit of education and the realization of the American dream for aspiring lawyers. As Best Lawyers surveys attorneys in this country, we pay extra attention to the nuances in our ranking process, the transparency in our nomination procedures and the care and intent that go into our balloting systems. Best Lawyers’ rankings have proven over our 40-year history to be a significant indicator of lawyers’ work and positioning among their peers. We take the responsibility of crafting these recognitions with the seriousness that the most elite lawyers have earned.”

For the last four decades, we have kept our beliefs at the forefront of not just our messaging but our award selection process. To find the best legal experts, after all, you must ask the best legal experts. Industry leaders and an array of authorities throughout the field: These are the trusted voices in whom we have, for 30 editions now, sought the informed feedback that produces the Best Lawyers awards.

Excellence in the Making

Ranking the most exceptional legal minds requires sustained commitment and considerable intricacy. We leave no stone unturned, ensuring that that each stage of the Best Lawyers awards cycle is thorough. Our dedication to accuracy is backed by a Purely Peer Review® process that we developed for the first edition and have maintained across decades of research. This process is paramount to the awards, but understanding exactly how it works is essential not only to the participants but to the credibility of our entire platform.

Elizabeth Petit, Best Lawyers’ Director of Research, has spent more than a decade guiding a team of experts who, year after year, carefully conduct the Purely Peer Review process to determine awards. “In order to have unquestionable confidence in the qualifications of an attorney, we look to those who know their work best—opposing counsel and outside colleagues whose work has already been previously vetted for excellence,” she says.

The peer-to-peer ethos of Best Lawyers sets aside attorneys’ natural competitiveness, promoting instead the collegial championing of colleagues both beside and across the bench. “Our methodology encourages both a simple and sophisticated approach to legal awards,” Petit says. “While others may evaluate additional data points including case matters, client endorsements and marketing qualifications, we stand by our evaluation approach that the most qualified individuals to evaluate a lawyer’s practice are lawyers themselves.”

One of the most critical components of Best Lawyers awards are the evaluations we receive. Both in quality and in number, individual lawyer assessments are the crux of the awards. Each year we get more evaluations—in part a reflection of a greater variety of viable practice areas and more submitted nominations. For the 30th edition, we received a record-breaking 19,708,289 historical evaluations and 2,839,037 new evaluations from across the United States. These staggering figures resulted in the recognition of just over 76,000 talented attorneys by Best Lawyers in 2024—that’s around 5% of all lawyers in the country recognized in The Best Lawyers in America.

Best Lawyers’ growth goes well beyond such numbers, though. To meet the demands of an industry that adds new talent every year, we’ve made it a priority to give representation to as many types of practices as possible. As legal specialties have evolved to become more specific, so too have the Best Lawyers practice areas. Over the decades we’ve split several specialties into branches more pertinent to both attorney and client needs, yielding 150 distinct practice areas in which to recognize lawyers.

We strive to make sure that these awards—which are determined anew every year—are dynamic and fresh each time. We execute our process each year, meaning lawyers must earn their laurels the same way. “Best Lawyers awards are determined annually to ensure that we continue to capture the current market consensus,” Petit says. “Once lawyers have received recognition, they must continue to garner enough positive feedback from voters each year to maintain their award. There is no guarantee that individuals will be recognized each year—that lies solely in the hands of their peers and the continued success of their own practice.”

Adds Greer: “Best Lawyers’ trusted process embraces peer evaluations, practice area development and active engagement with the legal environment. This allows our awards to reflect the latest advances in law while honoring existing and new expertise across the legal landscape.”

Lustrous and Laudable

Best Lawyers has issued rankings of the top legal talent in the country since 1983 at no cost to clients or the awarded lawyers. The goal of Best Lawyers from its inception has been to offer the most thorough, unbiased and extensive representation of honorees. They’re invited to share their award across all their promotional channels, as there is simply no greater indication of legal talent than a Best Lawyers signet.

To enhance the awards and help honorees broadcast their Best Lawyers recognition to a wider audience, Best Lawyers provides a host of opportunities. Some of the most influential are the Best Lawyers publications. As Nancy Lippincott, Best Lawyers’ Director of Content, explains, “Publications, both print and digital, offer lawyers a powerful advantage and a platform to reach clients affectively. Showcasing awards, branding and customized messaging enables lawyers to control the narrative of their work and provide exposure of their credentials throughout the industry. Lawyers who opt for this longstanding, trusted form of marketing foster awareness of themselves and their work, which leads to stronger client relations.”

Best Lawyers’ publications, both print and digital, showcase specific regions and areas of practice. They include business editions, which highlight litigators, women in the law and other groups of esteemed practitioners nationwide. Because these publications are circulated to millions, clients find value in them—not just from the attorneys honored by Best Lawyers but those who have positioned themselves as industry leaders offering key insights on any number of legal topics.

“Clients view Best Lawyers as a trusted source of legal representation, which is vital to make well-informed decisions when choosing the best attorney for their needs,” Lippincott says. “Best Lawyers awards do the work for the client, identifying for them the top legal professionals in each focus area and location. Clients can be assured of the value of each award knowing that Best Lawyers rankings are deduced by a careful peer evaluation process, and using Best Lawyers as their guide empowers them to find lawyers who align best with their needs.”

As in many professions, trends in the legal industry ebb and flow. Perhaps the biggest recent one is the way technology has pushed its way into nearly every facet of daily life. With the power of the internet at their disposal, consumers looking for legal representation have become far more discerning. The importance of a highly credentialed lawyer has given rise to Best Lawyers’ online resources, which offer fast, effective, straightforward and credible ways to find an attorney.

“Because Best Lawyers honorees are selected anew every year, clients can feel confident that they are reviewing not only the top legal talent but the most current legal talent nationwide,” Greer says. “Best Lawyers awards remain dynamic, relevant and pivotal to clients, and our efforts to increase our digital offerings give them the best the legal world has to offer, quite literally, at their fingertips.”

Best Lawyers has long held a dignified reputation throughout the industry, and we’ve accrued substantial recognition over four decades as the leading legal platform. Our unbiased peer review, transparency, trusted methodology and focus on constant strength in (and improvement of) our process have earned us great trust—of which we intend, every year, to prove ourselves worthy. Rankings like ours have affected the entire industry in many ways. As Petit notes, they promote camaraderie among the competition. She, Greer and Lippincott alike agree that the awards promote excellence and help motivate legal professionals, whatever their practice area. Best Lawyers sets the standard that attorneys nationwide work to maintain, and our recognition in turn showcases the skill and determination of lawyers with seemingly limitless talent and enterprise.

Red Best Lawyers logo with gold symbols and black text outlining US statistics for 30th edition

Thirty Editions of Legal Brilliance

To commemorate this momentous launch and the 30 editions through which we’ve proudly served the legal industry, we highlight this year’s awards. As always, their 2024 iteration highlight extraordinary feats of capability and fortitude among the nation’s finest legal minds.

We have, naturally, no plans to stop here. We aim to bring the country continued guidance and value over many years ahead, bringing growth, technology, ingenuity and integrity to the fore every time. Could there be a better way to laud and celebrate these legal pearls, whose years of commitment, education and hard work have buffed them to an exquisite shine? “The future of Best Lawyers will mimic the success of the past, but with eyes firmly on emerging opportunities in the legal space,” Greer says. “We’ll continue to do what we do best by leveraging strong data and technology to ensure transparency, accuracy and expansion. We will always keep top of mind the adage that has powered our methodology since day one: that the Best Lawyers know precisely who the Best Lawyers are.”

Headline Image: iStock/DKosig

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