Biglaw, General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Rankings

Law Firm Rankings By Clients, But We Can’t See Them

Association of Corporate Counsel logo.jpgYou know how much we love rankings around these parts. But apparently there is a list of law firm rankings out there that actually matters. The National Law Journal reports:

An Association of Corporate Counsel law firm rating system unveiled last month has triggered a lot of interest from the association’s in-house lawyer members, who have submitted 1,500 firm reviews. Lawyers at firms are less enthused. …
Since the ACC initiated its “value index” last month, its members have shared their opinions about the performances of 500 law firms. The ACC has used the mainly anonymous input to rank firms on a five-point scale.

Unfortunately, there is one humongous catch:

The evaluations and ratings are viewable only by ACC members.

Why, Association of Corporate Counsel? Why? Why produce a juicy new list of clients actually rating the quality of legal services they receive, and then keep it private? We all want to know what you think.
Sorry. “All” is probably a little bit strong. Law firm managers don’t seem to like this list very much.

Since the ACC has left an information vacuum about its rankings, law firms are filling the void by disparaging the usefulness of the list:

Firms have been crying foul on several fronts, foremost because the in-house counsel comments are anonymous and could cloak lawyers with axes to grind, such as disgruntled former law firm associates.
That’s according to the Zeughauser Group, the legal consultancy. Zeughauser wrote to law firms and news organizations last week detailing the feedback it’s been getting from law firms. The organization declared that the ratings were “cause for concern.”

You know, some people think that the opinions of disgruntled former associates are still interesting.
Portfolio has this quote from nervous partners:

Law-firm partners, on one hand, say that while they welcome more client conversations around budgeting and delivering value, they say the five-star system is oversimplified.
“I don’t think this value index is going to be the barometer as to how well law firms are performing. I don’t think most sophisticated general counsels are going to make their decisions based on the Zagat’s guide for law firms–which is not at all to denigrate the need for law firms to provide value,” said James Westra, managing partner of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP’s Boston office.

You know, in this time of performance review layoffs and “merit-based” compensation systems, what could possibly be wrong with rating a law firm’s value proposition? “Zagat’s guide for law firms” sounds about right.
In an interview, ACC president Fred Krebs said that the organization was planning on making the reviews available to law firms. But he also noted that accepting anonymous reviews allowed lawyers to be more candid about the firms they work with.
“Duh,” said everybody at Above the Law in unison.

Krebs noted that the index is intended to help in-house counsel squeeze more value for their money at a time when companies are seeking ways to reduce legal costs. The association hopes the information will spur communication both among its members and between them and firms, he said. …
“We’re not interested in bad-mouthing firms or beating up on firms,” Krebs said. “This is meant to be a member service and to stimulate dialogue.”

I’m sure that if these rankings go public, it will stimulate some dialogue.
UPDATE: Highlights from the rankings are available here.
Legal Consultant Criticizes ACC’s Law Firm Rating Index [National Law Journal]
Objection, Your Honor [Portfolio]

(hidden for your protection)

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