The Other Credentialing Paradigms: A Conversation with Best Lawyers®, Super Lawyers®, and AVVO®. Josh King, vice-president business development and general counsel, AVVO Elizabeth Petit, director of research and managing editor, Best Lawyers Cindy Larson, publisher, Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business Wesley H. Avery, trustee, sole practitioner, and of counsel Roquemore, Pringle & Moore LLP J. Scott Bovitz, Bovitz & Spitzer May 30, 2014 3:40 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Long Beach, California v. 5.0
Open dialogue. What are the opportunities for cooperation and joint operation between AVVO, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, other quality programs, and legal specialist certification programs? Do “we” have common goals? In what ways are AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers *better* than the traditional certification programs?
J. Scott Bovitz. J. Scott Bovitz ([email protected]
) is a bankruptcy litigator with Bovitz & Spitzer (bovitz-spitzer.com) in Los Angeles. Board Certified, Business Bankruptcy Law, American Board of Certification (abcworld.org). American Board of Certification: Director (2009-present); Standards Committee (2009); Member, State Bar Liaison Committee (2010); Chair, State Bar Liaison Committee (2011-2014). Certified Specialist, Bankruptcy Law, State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization (californiaspecialist.org). State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization: Commissioner (2001-2004); Chair, Subcommittee on Publicity/Public Awareness (2001-2004); Chair, Subcommittee on Rules (2004-2005); Vice-Chair (2004-2005); Chair (20052006); Advisor (2006-2007); Council of Past Chairs (2007-2010). Personal and Small Business Bankruptcy Law Advisory Commission, State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization: Commissioner (1997-2001); Vice-Chair (1999-2000); and Chair (2000-2001). AV Preeminent rating, Martindale Hubbell (martindale.com). Southern California Super Lawyer (superlawyers.com) in bankruptcy and creditor/debtor rights (2004-2014). California Committee of Bar Examiners (cc.calbar.ca.gov). Executive Editor, Personal and Small Business Bankruptcy Practice in California (CEB.com). Contributing author, Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice, 3d (store.westlaw.com). Coordinating editor, American Bankruptcy Institute, ABI Journal. Former Adjunct Professor, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. Regularly quoted on bankruptcy topics on television and radio. Recording engineer: Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic and Legal Voices (lalawyersphil.org); and the award winning jazz ensemble, Gary S. Greene's Big Band of Barristers. 3
Wesley H. Avery. Wesley H. Avery is certified as a specialist in Bankruptcy Law by the State Bar of California and by the American Board of Certification. Super Lawyer since 2007. Past Chairman of the Board of Legal Specialization, State Bar of California. Rated of 10.0 out of 10.0 by AVVO. Rated AV Preeminent by Martindale.com. Chapter 7 trustee and standing chapter 12 trustee in the Central District of California; member of the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees. Reported cases include In re DeGour, 478 B.R. 1; In re JMC Telecom LLC, 416 B.R. 738; In re Lahijani, 325 B.R. 282; In re Plitt Amusement Co., 233 B.R. 837; DRG v. Chopstix Dim Sum Café, 30 Cal.App.4th 54. B.A., with highest honors in Economics from the University of California, Davis, 1980; elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, 1984. J.D., University of California at Los Angeles, 1991 with an emphasis in commercial law and bankruptcy. Practice is limited to bankruptcy law. Sole practitioner in Valencia; of counsel to the law firm of Roquemore, Pringle & Moore LLP in the City of Commerce. Member, Standing Committee on Specialization, American Bar Association.
Josh King. General counsel and vice president business development, Avvo, 2007present; director of spectrum and business development, Clearwire, 20052007; vice president corporate development, AT&T Wireless, 2002-2005; chief counsel affiliates and new markets, AT&T Wireless, 2000-2002; general counsel, Cellular One of San Francisco, 1998-2000; senior counsel, Cellular One of San Francisco, 1996-1998; associate attorney, Chanler & Somers, 1995-1996; associate attorney, Fox Shjeflo Wohl & Hartley, 1993-1995. Bachelor of Science, University of Oregon; J.D., Hastings College. “I wanted to be a scientist — an astrophysicist, specifically.” http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/print-edition/2013/04/12/josh-kingwinner-outstanding.html?page=all. In house counsel to AVVO. “My legal duties are a bit unusual. I handle every legal issue Avvo faces — primarily media law issues, but also financing, corporate governance, employment, contracts, etc. But because of our position in the legal industry, I spend even more time writing and speaking on professional ethics and digital media issues relating to legal marketing.” Id. 5
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Martindale Hubbell, the great-grandfather. https://www.osbar.org/publications/bulletin/12augsep/supersizeme.html: Martindale-Hubbell. Best Lawyers. Super Lawyers. AVVO. Who benefits from these or other such entities that rate lawyers? The almost exclusively private-practice lawyers who appear on their lists? Consumers? … The Granddaddy of Them All. In the beginning was the word, and the word was -- Martindale-Hubbell. Or, to be more accurate, James B. Martindale, a Midwestern lawyer and businessman who, in 1868, first published The Martindale Directory for the purpose of “furnishing to lawyers, bankers, wholesale merchants, manufacturers, real estate agents, and all others … the address of one reliable law firm, one reliable bank, and one reliable real estate office in every city in the United States...” By 1896, the directory included the basic information that still appears in its “Practice Profile” listings in print and online, as well as ratings. In 1930, Martindale’s company bought the publishing rights to Hubbell’s Legal Directory, which included a selective list of lawyers and firms. The first edition of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory was produced, as a two-volume set, in 1931; the listings have been owned and published by the online giant Reed Elsevier LexisNexis since 1989. “We consider our Martindale Hubbell ratings to be the hallmark of the legal industry,” says Carlton Dyce, vice president of lawyer ratings for Martindale-Hubbell. “We don’t consider ourselves to be rating lawyers as much as mirroring the perceptions of the legal community.” Dyce says that Martindale-Hubbell accomplishes this by randomly selecting lawyers who have been admitted to practice for at least three years from the approximately 1 million lawyers that are in practice nationwide and on the company’s data base. “We are objective,” he says of the rating selection process. “Some ratings systems are set up like clubs where the only way you get in is a member of that club identifies you as being worthy to join the club. We rate large-firm attorneys, we rate smallfirm attorneys. You could be a solo practitioner in Walla Walla Wash.” 11
Introducing Josh King, vice-president business development and general counsel, AVVO.
The Largest Legal Directory & Q&A Forum.
Avvo, Inc. Confidential - ©2014
Avvo’s Mission. To Empower People to Confidently Address Their Legal Issues
Question from Hon. Melissa May. “I think a valid question that I've never had answered to my satisfaction is exactly how their lawyers are selected. I have never received any questionnaire or anything about my views ‐either as a lawyer or a judge -- on the qualifications of their top rated lawyers. And I have to say that concerns me a bit. In Indiana, I'm familiar with some of the leading lawyers and agree, but some of them I've never heard of. And they happen to be with firms who advertise in those organizations. So I'm skeptical but not biased against if that makes sense.” Hon. Melissa May, Indiana Court of Appeals, Special Advisor to the ABA Standing Committee on Specialization
What Goes Into the Avvo Rating? Resume
Awards (including Certifications)
Associations Peer Endorsements
Avvo, Inc. Confidential - ©2014
The Avvo Rating. • Algorithmic • Applied Objectively • Only a Starting Point
Client Reviews are a SEPARATE Rating
Avvo, Inc. Confidential - ©2014
Types of Avvo Rating. Numerical:
Avvo, Inc. Confidential - ©2014
Puget Sound Business Journal on AVVO. http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/print-edition/2013/04/12/josh-king-winneroutstanding.html?page=all: Josh King gets slapped a lot -- with lawsuits. As vice president for business development and general counsel of Avvo Inc., an online directory that rates lawyers, King receives up to five legal threats a week. Avvo provides profiles, client reviews, peer endorsements and an Avvo Rating for more than 95 percent of all U.S. lawyers. The site’s comprehensive, algorithm-based rating system is unique and the service is “not without controversy from lawyers,” King says. So, much of his time is spent responding to ceaseand-desist letters. … King joined Avvo two months after its launch in 2007. “I was really intrigued by the idea,” he says. “I’m not one to shy away from risk or conflict. I liked that Avvo was doing something so new and different.” “I love that we’re building this brand-new thing and providing something really valuable to consumers,” he adds. “Growing that from nothing up to 5 million, (and) seeing that feedback from people trying to get their legal problems resolved and being able to connect with lawyers, is very (gratifying).” The 45-year-old San Francisco native also handles Avvo’s human resources, finance and business-operations activities. His biggest focus is managing how Avvo acquires its data from bar associations and ensuring the data are published and presented in a way that’s compliant with the law. Lawyer licensing and discipline records are not considered public records in most states, King says. 27
Best Lawyers (bestlawyers.com).
Presenter: Elizabeth Petit Director of Research & Development Managing Editor
Best Lawyers Brief History: Founded in 1981, Best Lawyers began as a guide for lawyers covering 10 practice areas across the US. In 2009, Best Lawyers expanded into Canada, followed by major international growth over the past four years. In 2010, Best Lawyers, in partnership with U.S. News & World Report, published the inaugural edition of “Best Law Firms.” Mission Statement: Our lists of outstanding attorneys are compiled by conducting exhaustive peer-review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. If the votes for an attorney are positive enough for inclusion in Best Lawyers, that attorney must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain on the list for each edition. Lawyers are not permitted to pay any fee to participate in or be included on our lists.
Best Lawyers Process
The Best Lawyers in America 20th Edition •
Published in August 2013
50,834 lawyers listed
134 Practice Areas
21st Edition will be released Aug. 2014
Lists the top 4% of practicing attorneys in the US
Best Lawyers Process
Best Lawyers International •
Began publishing international lists in 2006
Now in almost 70 countries around the world
25,000+ lawyers listed world-wide
Expanded to Central America in 2013
Best Lawyers Publications
“Best Law Firms” • “Best Law Firms” Rankings: Beginning in 2010, Best Lawyers partnered with U.S. News & World Report to rank the “Best Law Firms” in the US. • The Fifth Edition of “Best Law Firms” will be released on November 1, 2014. The upcoming edition will cover more than 11,000 firms in 120 Practice Areas on both a national scale and in 178 regional metropolitan areas. • Rankings Research Components: • • • •
Law Firm Survey Client Survey Lawyer Survey Law Firm Leaders Survey 33
“Best Law Firms” Publications
U.S. News and World Report, and more. http://393communications.com/best-lawyers-the-last-five-years/: Best Lawyers’ tie-up with US News & World Report has been transformative. The marriage combines US News’ long association with rankings, with Best Lawyers’ established name in the legal sector. Launched in September 2010, the “Best Law Firms in America” survey quickly established itself as one of the most influential in the US market. Many law firms, particularly larger ones, which previously did not engage much with Best Lawyers, now participate in the annual survey. … However, Best Lawyers decided to bring its custom publishing operation in-house after years of cooperating in a joint venture with ALM, the publishers of American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel. Previously, Best Lawyers handed its research over to ALM, who packaged up its lists in inserts and supplements in legal, business and city magazines. Advertising revenue was shared between the two partners. Now Best Lawyers prepares its own custom publications, and has hired a sizeable team of production people. … Five years ago Best Lawyers was predominantly a U.S publication. Canada was added to the mix in 2006 – its first international list. Now the online site offers lawyers lists in 65 countries world-wide. … The new-look Best Lawyers management team is led by Elizabeth Petit, managing editor and director of research and development, and chief operating officer Phil Greer, the company’s former IT director. 35
Methodology (peer review). http://www.bestlawyers.com/Downloads/bl-expanded-methodology.pdf: Inclusion in Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer-review. The methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. Best Lawyers employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services. Our belief has always been that the quality of a peer-review survey is directly related to the quality of its voting pool. …
https://www.osbar.org/publications/bulletin/12augsep/supersizeme.html (August 2012): Best Lawyers of America, which bills itself on its website as “the oldest and most highly respected peer review guide in the legal profession worldwide” — take that, Martindale-Hubbell — actually was started in 1981 by two Harvard Law School graduates. Both briefly worked as lawyers before turning to writing — their co-authored book, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1991 — and publishing. The listings, which are owned by Woodward/White, Inc., with offices in South Carolina and New York, are funded by Best Lawyers’ custom publications and online store. Although a representative of Best Lawyers could not be reached for comment, its website says that inclusion in Best Lawyers is determined by having lawyers who are on the current list vote on other lawyers, in their geographic and practice areas, who have been nominated by someone. (Lawyers are asked to not nominate themselves, but are not barred from doing so.) All nominees must be in private practice. “Clients, other lawyers and marketing teams are the primary sources of nominations,” the website says. “A large and open voting pool introduces a host of potential distortions to the selection process, including collusion between lawyers to secure votes.” The voters are asked one question: “If you were unable to take a case yourself, how likely would you to be to refer it to this nominee?” They are asked to give a numerical grade between 5 (“would definitely refer”) and 1 (“would definitely not refer”). The votes then are averaged, with “votes from partners within a nominee’s own firm … weighed appropriately, and eccentric votes — far better or far worse than the others, … tagged for further review.” Selected lawyers are then checked for bar standing and notified. “Ultimately,” the website acknowledges, “a lawyer’s inclusion on these lists is based on the subjective judgments of his or her fellow attorneys. While it is true that the lists may at times disproportionately reward visibility or popularity, we remain confident … that the breadth of our survey, the candor of our respondents and the sophistication of our polling methodology largely correct for any biases…” 37
About 140 practice areas. http://www.bestlawyers.com/About/PracticeAreaLists.aspx: Best Lawyers works with leaders in the legal marketplace to keep our practice area lists current in order to ensure that clients and referring lawyers can more easily locate the precise expertise that they are seeking. [Includes practice areas by country. There are only 10 practice areas in Uzbekistan, for example.]
International, regional partnerships. http://www.bestlawyers.com/About/PartnerLogos.aspx?whichpage=regional: The reason that Best Lawyers lists are seen by so many people in print – more than 17 million people each year – is that we work with over one hundred publications worldwide to distribute our excerpts of lists by geographical location. Best Lawyers now self-publishes our well-known suite of nearly 30 U.S.-based excerpts in some of the nation’s most recognizable publications, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. These local publications provide you with an unsurpassable way to expand your firm’s visibility with a Best Lawyers profile. Best Lawyers now provides you with diverse opportunities to enhance your firm’s exposure in your state or throughout the country, through print advertising, online media and customized collaterals and marketing materials.
United States Argentina Armenia Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahrain Belarus Belgium Brazil Bulgaria Canada Chile Colombia Costa Rica Croatia/Hrvatska Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland
France Georgia Germany Greece Guatemala Honduras Hungary Iceland Ireland Israel Italy Japan Kazakhstan Kenya Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg
Macedonia Mexico Moldova, Republic of Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Norway Oman Panama Peru Poland Portugal Puerto Rico Qatar Romania Russia Saudi Arabia Serbia and Montenegro Singapore
Slovakia Slovenia South Africa South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland Tajikistan Turkey Turkmenistan Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom Uzbekistan Venezuela
Self supporting; sales on Amazon. https://www.bestlawyers.com/Store/Default.aspx:
Sells books, plaques, website subscriptions. http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&fieldauthor=ELIZABETH%20PETIT&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AELIZABETH%20PETIT:
Super Lawyers. https://www.facebook.com/SuperLawyers
..................................... Cindy Larson Publisher Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business http://www.superlawyers.com/ 42
CINDY LARSON Publisher, Super Lawyers
WHAT IS SUPER LAWYERS? Key Indicators
OUR MISSION To provide visibility to attorneys who exhibit excellence in the practice of law 44
THE SELECTION PROCESS
State Certified Legal Specialization
My mother (Carole Bovitz, RIP) immediately knew what a “Super Lawyer” was.
Question from David E. Rapoport, Chicago. “I would like to know what role, if any, board certification plays in each of their selection processes, what we can say to our board certified attorneys about that and what these organizations each say about board certification on their websites, if anything.” David E. Rapoport dra[email protected]
Selection process. http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.htm: Super Lawyers Selection Process Patented by The United States Patent and Trademark Office In April 2013, the Super Lawyers selection process received a patent (U.S. Pat. No. 8,412,564) from The United States Patent and Trademark Office. This distinction is relevant to both attorneys and consumers, as it further demonstrates credibility as an impartial third-party rating system. “We are honored to have a recently granted U.S. patent relating to lawyer-ratings. We take our credibility very seriously, and having a patent assures our customers that we strive to be innovation leaders in our area,” says Julie Gleason, the Director of Research at Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with third party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public, i.e., lawyers in private practice and Legal Aid attorneys. The Super Lawyers patented selection process involves three basic steps: creation of the candidate pool; evaluation of candidates by the research department; and peer evaluation by practice area. 51
New Jersey, Wendy Weiss, and the 2007 debate at this Roundtable. http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html: Super Lawyers Selection Process Blessed by Courts and Bar Associations Across the United States Bar associations and courts across the country have recognized the legitimacy of the Super Lawyers selection process. Most recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the findings of a Special Master assigned by the court to, among other things, examine the details of our process. In his July 2008 report, the Special Master lauded our lawyer-rating process, stating: “[The Super Lawyersselection process] is a comprehensive, good-faith and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers that have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.“ "Suffice to say, the selection procedures employed by [Super Lawyers] are very sophisticated, comprehensive and complex.“ “It is absolutely clear from this record that [Super Lawyers does] not permit a lawyer to buy one’s way onto the list, nor is there any requirement for the purchase of any product for inclusion in the lists or any quid pro quo of any kind or nature associated with the evaluation and listing of an attorney or in the subsequent advertising of one’s inclusion in the lists.”
International (UK). http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html: Super Lawyers selects solicitors using a rigorous, multiphase rating process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on multiple indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. The inaugural London selection was published in March 2013. Our objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding solicitors that can be used as a resource for solicitors and consumers searching for legal counsel. Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a solicitor, we limit the ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public, i.e. solicitors in private practice and Legal Aid solicitors. The selection process for the Super Lawyers list is designed to find indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. The rigorous process involves: Peer nominations and research to create the candidate pool; Independent research regarding all solicitors being considered; Peer feedback from solicitors who are invited to provide evaluations and comments regarding others in the candidate pool.
The ABA’s legal certification message. “Certification of lawyers as specialists is a win-win for the profession: It helps consumers to identify qualified legal counsel and it incentivizes lawyers to be more competent and more professional. Bringing the ABA Standing Committee on Specialization and its programs under the Center’s tent has been the best thing to happen to the national specialty certification movement in a long time.” Alice Neece Mine, Chair American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility Standing Committee on Specialization
ABA Standards, Accreditation of Specialty Certification Programs for Lawyers.
Are AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers better than “formal” certification programs?
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers have identified scores of practice areas. http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html: Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas… Can we use the Super Lawyers list to help identify additional certification areas?
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers identify proficient lawyers without requiring a test or burdensome application. How can we make it easier for lawyers to apply for and join formal certification programs? How can we use the AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers lists to help identify attorneys who could join our certified programs?
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers “recertify” lawyers every year. Can we accelerate our review of certified lawyers to weed out problem lawyers?
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers reach out to the public and lawyers with publications, press releases, and outstanding web site coverage.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers are self-funding and appear to be profitable.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers have honed their methodologies to find competent lawyers.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers demonstrate to the world that their selections are independent and fair.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers have easyto-use search engines to help consumers find the right lawyers for their needs.
Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers allow consumers to search for lawyers in other countries. This means a consumer in France can find a lawyer in Los Angeles, and vice versa.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers facilitate interactions with unsophisticated consumers of legal services. See, e.g., “Ask Super Lawyers” on http://ask.superlawyers.com/ (“With Ask Super Lawyers, you’ll find top attorneys answering state-specific questions about legal issues that matter to you. Each attorney participating in Ask Super Lawyers has been selected to a Super Lawyers list and has undergone our patented multiphase selection process. Across the United States, only the top five percent of each state’s attorneys are selected. So when you see a lawyer on the Super Lawyers list, you know they’ve earned it.”) Also see “Get free legal advice from top-rated lawyers” at http://www.avvo.com/free-legal-advice. Millions of questions and answers, with about 10,000 new questions from consumers every week.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers understand print, video, and the Internet. http://video.superlawyers.com: Browse videos by market (state) and practice areas.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers give mid-career lawyers a reason to work on their legal skills.
AVVO, Best Lawyers, and Super Lawyers protect their intellectual property and brands in a prudent manner. http://www.bestlawyers.com/About/PublicizingGuidelines.aspx: Best Lawyers® and The Best Lawyers in America© are registered trademarks of Woodward/White, Inc. The names, logo and database are protected under the trademark, copyright and fair use laws of the United States of America. Any use of name, including in electronic form, must be made only by permission and under the guidelines of Woodward/White, Inc.