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PBI CLE — Lawyer Rankings & Ratings: The Impact on Ethics and the Profession

If you are a PA lawyer, and it feels like you’ve been hearing me deliver marketing ethics CLE hours for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute for more than a decade now, it is because you have. My very first ethics CLE ever was given in Philly, New York and Houston in the summer of 1997. I opened with some lame canned joke involving Morgan Lewis and domain names. Trust me, I’ve gotten better. But the even weaker handout is now a collector’s item. I still have an original (see “Hoarders” and related illnesses).

Each year, I change the focus and try to cover hot topics, and changing rules, as they relate to areas of law marketing ethics. Quite honestly, some years my “show” (as I call it) is better than others. Last year’s focus on ethics of social media was very well received. But this year’s focus on ratings, rankings and reviews might be the best one yet. I mean, really, who does not debate the value, interest and impact on the multi-zillion dollar “sell stuff to attorneys” industry?

I’ve written and spoken on the rankings & ratings subject for many years, including multiple ABA Annual Meetings, as a focus of the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, for PBI and in at least a half dozen publications. I’m not sure if the publishers of these companies will tell you they love me or hate me (it is probably a mix, leaning more toward the negative), but it is a market that continues to fascinate. This holds true in my marketing roles, in my ethics roles, and certainly in speaking as a leader in law practice management circles.

The program–always presented in the Pennsylvania compliance months of April, August and December–returns to Pittsburgh on August 23rd and Philadelphia on August 30th (or as my wife calls it, “the pro bono CLE program you do that ruins our vacation schedule each summer”).

Here is a program description. If you can’t see it “live”, PBI usually makes them available at some point via webinar or podcast.

There may not be a bigger “industry” in law firm marketing and business development circles than the continued growth and proliferation of rankings and ratings. The impact on the profession is significant–from the time and money spent to the permissible uses for promotion. The Rules of Professional Conduct and ethics opinions have tried in vain to develop workable ethics barriers and parameters. Learn about ratings and their methodologies, and the ethical considerations voiced by various state and national bar associations. From long-time services by Martindale, American Lawyer Media, Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers; to relative newcomers such as Chambers USA and Avvo; and the thousands of other companies that have recognized there is a lot of money to be made in the business of lawyer rankings. Are they helping buyers of legal services make more informed decisions or hindering the profession as a whole? You decide.