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 BestAttorneysOnline.com. 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!

  • Anonymous

    Not that it affects the general issues you raise with this site, but it does appear that [perhaps] the list in question is ranking the best firms for IP in Massachusetts rather than individuals, which would possibly explain the inclusion of Skadden and Bingham McCutchen with partner names listed that do not match the IP practice. Of course, that does not explain the individuals listed who do not practice IP law.

    That being said, the site gets more questionable when you click through to a firm description (from the "More Info" link next to each firm). For example, it lists Skadden as being founded in 1997, and having between $3 million and $5 million in revenue. Worse still, the firm overview is simply two paragraphs apparently taken from the middle of a description of the firm's Diversity Committee and provides no meaningful overview of the firm whatsoever. Other major firms have similar obvious errors in their profiles (I'm guessing most at Shearman & Sterling would be surprised to know that, according to this site, the firm was founded in the last two months and has only 14 employees).

    Seems that this site was launched before it was actually ready for prime time.

  • Robert,
    Just read your articles regarding BestAttorneysOnLine.com. I visited the website to check it out for myself. Most of the links didn't seem to be working even though the site was up. I did similar checking around, as you did per your previous article about this site. I never found any links working to check attorneys in my state (California) or in my practice area (personal injury).

    To evaluate…each attorney…based on several identified factors…by an…experienced research team…based upon…reviews of case histories and firm expertise…on the targeted field of practice taking into account specialized state variances…and then…analyzing the information provided by each firm and comparing that against the market of lawyers throughout the state…would be a monumental task alone. To then compile all that data and assign each firm (not lawyer) a ranking of any value would be a herculean task. I can just imagine the battles that will come from those evaluations, assuming that is what happens. Look at the struggles and litigation AVVO and SuperLawyes has been in over their rating systems. I can not imagine that BestAttorneysOnLine will be up to the task that they have set out for themselves. In theory, a great idea. Practically, impossible without enormous resources and exceptional talent.

    Thanks for your article. It was forwarded to me by Steven Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute (www.therainmakerinstitute.com). I believe he is a fan of yours.

    John Bisnar

  • Anonymous

    Robert, your article was forwarded to me regarding Jeev Trika and the BestAttorneysOnline.com website.

    My name is Edward Lewis and I'm the System Administrator for SEOConsultants.com. We too have a claimed Independent Authority in our midst, they go by the name of TOPSEOs.com with Jeev Trika being the lead partner.

    You can read more about our concerns here, they are very similar to those you have for your own industry.

    TOPSEOs – Independent Authority on Search Vendors?

    Thank you Robert and have a Happy Easter if you're celebrating.

  • Jim Gilbert


    As with all things online, a keen eye and good judgement goes a long way. Keep up the good work.

    Jim Gilbert

  • so the question remains…If you are simply trying to find the very best lawyer to represent you in whatever you may be trying to accomplish (in my case employment attorneys in KS) how do you do that?

  • The web has exploded with bad legal directories. It’s frustrating to have to sort through them all to try to find the legit ones.