There are a number of websites listing "top lawyers". Some make money by selling swag to the winners after they've won, others ask for money to be placed on their lists, and some require purchase of a separate service to be listed. Even review websites often paint inaccurate pictures because one or two angry clients can paint a poor picture of an otherwise excellent lawyer. There are websites which claim to be peer-rated, but they don't seem to have high search rankings (at least in Edmonton), and I don't know how widely the voting is actually circulated.
One way to combat that would be to launch our own peer-reviewed system. We're probably in a better position to judge each other's quality than a client who has only ever used one lawyer (and let's not get into clients who've had several lawyers). There are just shy of a thousand lawyers on this website, so we should be able to generate some reliable averages from a large enough pool. To that end, I purchased BestAlbertaLawyers.ca. I figure that on each page of FamilyCounsel.ca, on the side, you'd see the name of a lawyer, and you'd have the ability to indicate whether you'd consider referring a friend to that lawyer, or whether you haven't had any experience with that lawyer. I feel that phrasing would help to highlight effective lawyers rather than pleasant pushovers. What a person voted wouldn't be saved in the system, so that they wouldn't have to worry about it being traced back to them. Maybe I'd also add the ability to add constructive feedback or encouragement, which would only be visible to that lawyer. BestAlbertaLawyers.ca would then list the top peer-rated family law lawyers in each municipality. Maybe I'd create a profile page for each lawyer, although maybe with the ability to hide it, and maybe the vote would be hidden until there were at least a few votes. Maybe lawyers could also link to other review websites, to encourage lawyers to leave positive support for their peers they strongly recommend. I of course wouldn't require payment in order to be listed.
What do you think? Any thoughts? Any concerns? Any suggestions about how to design it?
My observation is that the lawyers I respect and admire the most care the least about whether people think they are the “best”. Same with doctors and accountants. And mechanics. Whether they are doing it on purpose or not, they are putting others first beyond their own needs for self-validation. Maybe there are some exceptions. But you get these weird results where some lawyers will boast that they never lose, and what they mean is that they won’t take hard cases.
If I refer a client to another lawyer, I usually don’t do so because of a general view that the lawyer is “the best”. It’s normally because I’ve probably cultivated a relationship with that lawyer and I trust their competency and client management and think they would be a good fit for that individual.
But to each their own. Big ego clients like big ego lawyers. Small ego clients like small ego lawyers. I suppose there might be merit in having some “hot or not” section of the site where people can ask others an opinion of themselves and forge some introductions and connections. But the point is it should be purely voluntary. The whole point of a profession, of course, is that we’ve all attained a worthy standard, which in itself is deserving of respect. Just my opinion.
I'm not sure this would be a value-added sort of thing, Ken. There are *so* many of these rating systems available, many of them pay-to-play, that their value seems somewhat diluted. Anything new would need to find a way to stand out from the pack while giving the public confidence in its legitimacy. The only one that carries a lot of currency with me is the OG, Martindale-Hubbell.
I agree with Stephen Harfield above that, when I refer people to another lawyer, I don't always do it because that lawyer is the 'best'. I do it because I think that lawyer would be a good fit for the person in question or the lawyer has enough time to fit in an urgent client or the lawyer has expertise in a niche field that I don't have or the lawyer has good people-management skills that the client/OP needs or for a lot of other reasons.
I agree that referral isn't a perfect metric, but I don't know if there's a better alternative. If a lawyer would be a good fit for a particular client, I think that does show some trust in that lawyer. There are very few lawyers who I would have enough knowledge to be able to rate them on a ten-point scale, for example. Do you have a better suggestion for an alternative question to be posed to voters?
To clarify, my intent isn't to determine who is the "best". Looking at Google search console, it appears that a large quantity of people search for "best divorce lawyer" when they're looking for a client. The purpose of the domain name would be to improve search rankings, so that the page would hopefully be one of the first visible, especially if I can get it linked back from other websites.
Martindale-Hubbell might be a great badge of honour, but at least when I search for that phrase, their website isn't in the first three pages of results. Instead, after all of the ads, I see the page that told me that my firm had to pay to be listed, a page that lists people who pay for their separate service, and a ranking service that removed me after I didn't buy swag from them. Having an unpaid service, with very broad neutral peer reviews, that would hopefully be towards the top of the rankings, should provide a valuable service to clients, as well as reward the effective lawyers out there. I would probably list 10 or maybe even more from each municipality.
I can see the advantage to something like this. Although I agree that referral sites are a dime a dozen, I also agree with Ken's position that the average person doesn't search for 'highly qualified lawyer' or 'experienced divorce lawyer' - they search for 'best divorce lawyer'. The ranking system of 'would you refer a friend/family member to this lawyer?' is general enough to provide some information as to whether that person is a reasonable and knowledgeable counsel. We all know that some situations (or requests) call for different counsel, but I think generally most people would want to refer a friend to a lawyer who was knowledgeable, approachable, and who could get the job done without creating a bunch of extra cost or stress. This would be really helpful in situations where there are counsel you haven't interacted with much that come up opposite you on a file. Who hasn't gone around their office and asked 'hey, do you know or have you had a file with so-and-so?' The family bar is large enough that there are many lawyers I haven't had a file with, even having been doing this for a while.