Should I Pay Super Lawyers?


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Super Lawyers is a website/magazine/directory with some traction in the marketplace. They make their money by selling promotional services to lawyers.

I’ve never heard a client or prospective client talk about Super Lawyers. Lawyers talk about it, though.

Super Lawyers uses some sort of survey process to decide who gets listed in their publications. Their materials indicate that:

The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Rising Stars list recognizes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in each state.

That’s a pretty big list of prospective customers for Super Lawyers to solicit.

These directories have always been around

When I was in law school, I lived in an apartment owned by an affluent lawyer. I traded time helping around his house in exchange for free rent on the apartment. During the interview, he showed me his leather-bound copy of some kind of Who’s Who book in which he was listed.

This guy, like many of us, had a very big ego. I’m not sure how the Who’s Who volume came up in our conversation. It was a little weird, but that was when I started to understand that the money in the directory business was made by selling listings and copies of books to egomaniacs. It started to click.

I wish I’d thought of Super Lawyers. There is big money to be made in the business of selling people’s names printed in books, websites, magazines, and directories. The bigger the print, the more some people will pay. Throw in a photo and there’s even more money.

Martindale-Hubbell was the big player back when I started practicing law. Back then they only had books. Then the web came along, and there were more pixels and less leather. Often they’ll even sell you a plaque for your lobby for $350 or more.

Super Lawyers is not a scam

These publications aren’t a scam. I don’t think they lie to us or cheat us–they just prey on our egos. They’re transparent about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and who they’re doing it to. Super Lawyers is part of Thomson Reuters so I’m sure they’ve got great lawyers keeping them out of scam territory and firmly in prompting-lawyer-egos-into-pulling-out-the-credit-card-territory.

They take your money and they massage your ego. I like a good ego massage. It’s like flying business class. The flight attendant knows my name, offers me slippers, and gives me hot nuts. What’s not to like?

Super Lawyers conducts a survey to decide who should be listed in their directories. Of course, the survey also serves as a crowd-sourced list of prospective customers. It’s pretty fantastic. I really am jealous of their success.

They’ll list you for free

Super Lawyers doesn’t keep you out of the directory if you don’t pay. But they will give you some extras if you give them some money. I don’t pay much attention, but I assume those extras include increased exposure, for enough money.

The Super Lawyers question comes up with great frequency. Should I pay, or should I just take whatever they provide at no cost?

I paid once for some kind of listing enhancement for one of our lawyers. Why? Because she asked me to do it and I didn’t want to say no. It made the lawyer feel good and I was curious to see if it had any economic impact on our firm.

From what I could discern in my non-scientific analysis of the expenditure, the money did make her feel good for a short while, but it did not have any economic impact on our firm. We didn’t have clients who claimed to have heard of us because of Super Lawyers.

Would I pay for a listing?

No, I wouldn’t pay for a listing. I’d happily accept whatever they’re giving away for free. But I wouldn’t pay for any extras.

Why? Because I don’t think it matters. I don’t think being in their directory makes much difference in the first place. But if it does, the free listing is sufficient for the other lawyers to see your name and either admire you, or be jealous of you, or hate you–whatever. You don’t need to pay extra; you get all of the above for free.

I wouldn’t pay any of these services, and Super Lawyers is not the only one of these services from which you’ll hear.

There are many of these ego-massaging businesses because lawyers are a great market for them. We’re always up for spending money to make ourselves feel better. We tell ourselves that ‘it’s worth a try,’ even if there’s no evidence that it works. Then we tend to forget about the auto-renewals, and the charges keep recurring year after year.

Most of the truly “super” lawyers I know were already aware that they were super. In fact, many of the not-so-super lawyers think they’re super too. We simply don’t require an annual, automated, recurring bill to remind us of how super we really are–we’re already telling folks on a daily basis.

Here’s a way to avoid this stuff

The emails from these marketing companies pour in. The calls keep coming. The sales representatives are persistent. Some even send cookies.

My approach to these solicitations has been consistent for a couple of decades, and it works really well.

When they call me, I don’t buy. I avoid their calls, I delete their emails, I don’t go to the front desk when they show up at the office. I just say nope, no, no thanks–over and over–to every single inquiry.

I have never regretted saying no.

The marketing that works consistently

The marketing I’ve done which has made me money has always been initiated by me. I had to go seek out a vendor. I had to find someone who was already too busy to be pestering me with cold calls.

When I wanted to advertise on TV and radio, I didn’t take the calls from the media sales reps calling to sell me time on their stations. I sought out a media buyer who specialized in buying air time for a monthly fee. She saved me money and got me the right placements.

When I wanted to build a new website, I sought out an agency with a great reputation that made me wait before they had time to devote to my project. They weren’t out hunting down new clients–they were busy already.

When I decided to advertise online, I was referred to an expert who could advise us, then help us design and buy online ads. Again, I had to wait a bit because the expert was busy with other customers and didn’t immediately have time for us when we called.

If they’re calling you, odds are good it’s not going to work out well for you–that’s true whether it’s advertising, websites, chatbots, answering services, leads, signage, or printing services.

Back to Super Lawyers

Should you spend money on Super Lawyers?

If I were you, I’d save the money and spend it on business-class plane tickets, or on joining a country club, or on big gold letters spelling out your name. The Super Lawyers ego trip is short-lived and doesn’t make nearly as big an impact as the country club host welcoming you by name when you and your guests arrive for lunch. There’s not much I like more than a good “Welcome back, Mr. Rosen” from a snappily dressed host. It may not be as good as an “All Rise” for a judge, but it’s close.

There are better ways to market your law firm, and there are better ways to get your ego massaged. Super Lawyers is not where I’d invest my money.

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