Call it the who's who of legal eagles.
It's the Best Lawyers in America, an annual directory that bills itself as a list of top-flight attorneys across 90 fields of practice. And it's no beauty contest, say those who compile and are featured in the directory. The 41,000 names inside are culled from peer reviews of millions of practicing attorneys across the nation.
Those listed represent 3 percent of all licensed practicing attorneys in the nation, said Kristen Greer, director of research for Best Lawyers.
"It's the acid test for what people think" of lawyers, said Zuckerman Spaeder LLP attorney Cy Smith, who made it into the directory's 17th edition, released this month. "These rankings are by other lawyers."
Some 575 Maryland attorneys from 186 firms are listed, including 361 from Baltimore — up from 322 in the city listed in the 2010 edition. Some of the larger firms represented include Jackson Lewis, DLA Piper, Miles & Stockbridge PC, Ballard Spahr LLP, Venable LLP and Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver.
Best Lawyers compiles its list after conducting surveys in which thousands of lawyers evaluate their peers on a confidential basis. The publication said the 2011 edition was based on more than 3.1 million evaluations of lawyers by other attorneys. Lawyers are not allowed to pay a fee to be included.
The directory is often used by corporate counsel or in-house counsel for companies when they are seeking special expertise with a matter they can't handle on their own. Law firms, sometimes those from other countries in need of U.S. expertise, also use it to find attorneys to partner with on cases.
"It is difficult to get listed, and just because you're listed doesn't mean you stay listed," Greer said. "You could have a banner year, but if you have a really big gaffe two years later, you might roll off the list. When people lobby their peers, it usually backfires."
Zuckerman Spaeder, which has a seven-lawyer office in Baltimore, recently announced that four of its Baltimore attorneys made the list. The firm said it has the most attorneys listed in the white-collar criminal defense category in Baltimore.
Being listed is significant for the firm, which specializes in litigation, because most of the firm's cases are referred by other lawyers. While Zuckerman Spaeder has some institutional clients who bring in white-collar cases, it's more typical for clients to come to the firm through referrals, said firm attorney Martin S. Himeles Jr., who also made the list.
In addition to the business that the list can generate, he said, there is also the intangible satisfaction of knowing that fellow attorneys regard you as being one of the best at what you do.
"And there's no more valuable recognition than what our peers think of us," Himeles said.
By Lorraine Mirabella, firstname.lastname@example.org, The Baltimore Sun
Source: The Baltimore Sun