As if the U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation's top law schools did not draw enough ire and fire from alumni and the legal community as a whole, attorneys can now look forward to the U.S. News-Best Lawyers Best Law Firms Rankings. The first salvo of Best Firm Rankings is due to be fired this coming September.
For those interested in just how U.S. News plans to rank law firms, the paper has released some information regarding the methodology it will use in ranking firms. First, who will be asked to rank the firms? According to U.S. News, surveys were sent to 52,480 clients of law firms; to 43,900 practicing lawyers in the United States including every American lawyer listed in Best Lawyers; to 2,314 law firm marketing officers; to 2,322 law firm recruiting officers; to 8,597 law firms without marketing or recruiting contacts; to 2,322 associates at law firms and 1,775 law firm summer associates. The client and lawyer surveys collected mostly "reputational ratings" on such areas as expertise, cost-effectiveness and responsiveness.
Those lawyers included in the U.S. News Best Lawyers list will have a strong effect on the rankings. In addition to information from the surveys noted above, the rankings will incorporate 3.1 million evaluations of 39,372 individual leading lawyers collected by Best Lawyers in its 2010 annual survey.
How will this information be used to rank firms by practice areas? All of the data was combined into a U.S. News-Best Lawyers overall score for each firm by practice area and by location. Firms with the highest overall scores were included in "metropolitan area" rankings that covered as many as 81 practice areas in 178 metropolitan areas, 7 statewide rankings, and on nationwide rankings that covered 39 practice areas. To be eligible for a metropolitan area ranking, a firm had to have at least one lawyer listed in Best Lawyers. This meant that 10,659 firms were included in the overall ranking process.
Further details on methodology will be detailed by U.S. News and World Report over the next few months as the release of the rankings approaches.