DBTC Law Firm

RATINGS AND FINDING A LAWYER

Every client wants the best possible lawyer at the best possible price to represent them.  Unfortunately there is no simple, uniform, universally-accepted system or method for finding or rating a lawyer.  Finding that lawyer, whether it is your first legal engagement, or you are an experienced lawyer looking for assistance in a different locale, can be as difficult as it is important.  However, there are dependable ways to search for proven, effective lawyers.  Using peer review rating systems, online data and old fashioned networking provide reliable means of finding and choosing the right lawyer for you.  The Davis Firm is proud to have significant experience, loyal clients and very high objective peer ratings.

 

One becomes licensed by a state as a lawyer in that state by demonstrating that he or she:  (a) has a degree from an accredited law school (typically three years), (b) meets certain character standards and (c) has passed an arduous two or three day “bar exam.”  Licensure assures a minimum standard of knowledge, but as with all professions and vocations, there is a wide range of competence and experience among licensed lawyers.  A licensed lawyer can, without limitation, take for a fee  any legal case they can get, regardless of experience or demonstrated competence.  It is thus a very serious client concern whether they have hired  a truly competent lawyer in the client’s area of need.

Experience counts.  A lawyer is going to be better at their tenth jury trial, will or contract, than they were at their first, regardless of what their overall level of competence may be.  In addition, many lawyers, like doctors, can and do specialize their practices.  Usually a lawyer who limits his practice to one or a few particular areas is going to be substantially more experienced, and hopefully more competent, efficient, effective and economical  in price for those areas than lawyers who do not focus in that specialty.  Some states certify lawyers in  specialties on objectively demonstrated competence and experience.  However, the number of states and the number of specialties certified are quite limited, and Arkansas does not certify specialties.

Searching the Web or yellow pages or paid directories such as Findlaw, will promptly list many lawyers by location and claimed  specialty.   However, there are no legal or ethical restrictions on lawyers’ advertising practice areas, such that a lawyer who has handled only one divorce case could  ethically advertise divorce among his practice areas.  The only thing reflected by  public advertising by Yellow Pages, websites,  billboards or fee-based web advertising is that a lawyer has spent advertising dollars.

Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted, uniform, objective system of rating lawyers’ specialties or competence.  How can you determine that?  Two ways:  First,  a number of institutions have established systems that seek to objectively and reliably determine the competence and/or specialty of lawyers in various ways.  While not an exhaustive list, the following institutions are used by lawyers themselves looking for lawyers and provide Internet means for finding such lawyers:

American College of Lawyers:    Various specialties of lawyers throughout the United States have created “colleges” of accomplished practitioners in that specialty.  Each college is independently formed and operated and has its own standards for admission and designation which may limit its “fellows” to the top 1% or so of peer-rated lawyers in that specialty.  Thus, being a “Fellow” in an American College of Lawyers denotes a very high degree of experience, expertise and competence in that area of the law.  These include the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, etc.  Each of these can be reached through its own website, which details how members are selected.  Care should be exercised in that some can simply be joined by paying a membership fee and thus denote no peer selection based upon merit.

Martindale Hubbell Law Directory:  This directory has been listing and rating lawyers, based upon objective, confidential peer review from other attorneys and judges, for over 100 years.  It is the oldest, and among lawyers, most widely used and relied-upon source for finding and rating lawyers.  Ratings are numerical, 1 through 5, 5 being best, with a concurrent rating system of BV (Distinguished, in the 4.0-4.5 range) and AV (Pre-eminent (4.5-5).  Its websites (Martindale.com; Lawyers.com) have interactive search engines so that you can find a lawyer in the specialty and locale desired, the ratings on that lawyer and an explanation of how the ratings are determined.

Best Lawyers in America:  This directory has published lists of the top peer review rated lawyers by location and specialty since 1983.  Its website, Bestlawyers.com, provides search engines to find those rated lawyers and explain the method of evaluation and selection.  It also designates the very best lawyer,within a field and state as “Lawyer of the Year” and provides similar review, selection and listing of best law firms, in conjunction with U.S. News and World Report.

SuperLawyers:  SuperLawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.  The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Selection is limited to the top 5% of lawyers in a state. Search engines are available at Superlawyers.com, to find lawyers so rated within their speciality and locale, which also explains the rating and selection process.  SuperLawyers also selects a “top fifty” lawyers in each state each year from the SuperLawyers selected in that state.

AVVO:  This Internet site procures from each state’s lawyer licensing authority a list of all licensed lawyers by town and state and posts it to an interactive Internet site.  The only information initially shown is the lawyer’s years of licensure and the existence of any official sanctions.  Each lawyer may then augment the site with supplemental information, creating a fleshed-out professional resume, and accruing competence points, up to a maximum of 10, based upon their experience.  This site is self-regulating only to the extent that if a lawyer misrepresents their professional experience and credits to get a higher rating, they risk losing their license by public misrepresentation.

FINDLAW:  Like the Yellow Pages, it is simply a paid subscription with no objective or independent evaluation of competence or specialties.

Second, RATINGS AREN’T EVERYTHING:   While ratings are generally reliable, they may not provide you the most convenient lawyer, the least expensive lawyer, the lawyer with the best personality match or an excellent lawyer who simply has not established their practice well enough to be highly rated.  It is thus a time-honored and generally effective practice to find a lawyer by asking your family, friends, neighbors and social and business colleagues.  In particular, persons who regularly deal with lawyers may have well-informed views of the reputation and competence of lawyers in the community; bankers, real estate agents, accountants, financial advisors, law enforcement officers, insurance agents, title agents, business persons and judges are all valid sources of inquiry.  Obviously, the more experience that any one of these people has with lawyers, or the more of such people you ask, the more qualified will be the recommendations obtained, which can be used independently or to supplement information gained through ratings sources.

OUR FIRM’S RATINGS:     We are very proud that our ten member firm:

– carries the highest rating “AV- Preeminent” from Martindale Hubbell with seven of its members individually rated “AV, Pre-eminent” and two rated “BV, Distinguished”;

– enjoys from Best Lawyers in America a “Best Law Firm” rating, with six of our lawyers independently rated as  “Best Lawyers” in various specialties and two of our lawyers being  designated “Lawyer of the Year” in 2012;

-has two lawyers who are Fellows in the American College of Trial Lawyers; and

-has five lawyers designated as “Super Lawyers” in various specialties.

We are confident that our younger lawyers are, themselves, well on their way to becoming pre-eminent, best, super lawyers once the skills and abilities which they  are already providing to clients have been properly recognized among the wider legal community.  You will find in each lawyer’s biography the ratings they have from the various entities.

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