Beware New ‘Best Attorneys’ Site

With all the lawyer-ranking sites already out there, I wasn’t surprised to see yet another one make its debut. But as I looked under the skin of this latest entrant, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Launched March 1, the new site is called A press release described it as “an independent authority on the best attorneys at law,” and went to say:

The independent authority evaluates each attorney at law based several identified factors depending on the field of expertise. An assigned experienced research team reviews case history and firm expertise on the targeted field of practice taking into account specialized state variances on the legal issues. The team analyzes information provided by each firm, and compares that against the market of lawyers throughout the state. Once the evaluation is complete, the team compiles the overall data, and assigns each firm a ranking.

So far so good. I decided to check my state, Massachusetts, and see who the site selected as the best attorneys here. I started with intellectual property, and came to a page titled, Top 10 Intellectual Property Lawyers in Massachusetts.”

Imagine my surprise to see there, listed as the third best IP lawyer in all of Massachusetts, Susan Lillis. Now, I know Susan. As a matter of fact, she is a friend and neighbor. She is a very good lawyer. She is undoubtedly one of the very best in the state at what she does. But what she does is not IP. It is not now and never has been. As her Web site says, she practices family law and she has concentrated in family law since 1985.

Who else made the list of the top-10 IP lawyers in Mass.? Well, coming in at number six is Peter C. Hardy. According to his Web site, he practices real estate, probate law, wills, trusts, estates, estate planning, corporations, conveyancing, elder law, Medicaid planning and administration. Peter does a variety of things, it appears, but not IP.

Coming in at number nine is Richard A. Toelke, a partner with Bingham McCutchen. Oddly, even though he is, in fact, in Boston, the site lists him as located in Hartford, which, last time I checked, was not in Massachusetts. More to the point, Toelke does not practice IP law. Rather, he is co-chair of Bingham’s real estate practice.

Ah, but we’ve saved the best of BestAttorneysOnline for last. Remember, this is a site that says it independently investigates and evaluates each ranked attorney using an experienced research team. So who did these diligent researchers rank as the 10th best IP attorney in Massachusetts? They gave that honor to Joseph H. Flom, name partner in Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. No doubt, Flom merits inclusion on any number of top-lawyer lists. But not this one. Neither is he in Massachusetts nor does he practice IP law. Based in New York City, he is, as his bio says, “widely recognized as one of the leading attorneys practicing in the merger and acquisition area.”

So there you have it. At least four of this site’s picks for the top 10 IP lawyers in Mass. do not practice IP law or even dabble in it. One of the top 10 is not even in Mass.

Need I say more about this site? How about, buyer (and lawyer) beware!