The short answer to this blog post is no.

The medium answer is “Ha ha, no.”

The longer answer requires an explanation as to my strong opinion on why this is nonsense. There are tons of attorney awards out there.  A lot of really amazing attorneys get them.  And some really crappy ones do too.

A couple of months ago I got a digital magazine honoring the “top 50 women in law.”  The first thing I noticed was an old law school classmate of mine was honored. I haven’t talked to her in the 24 years since we graduated, but have followed her career from afar.  She was the smartest person in my class, very nice, a hard worker and it’s no surprise she’s a great attorney.

A closer look though showed a few things.  First, most of the honored women came from law firms. By my count, 43 of the 50 worked at law firms, most of those at really big law firms. The remaining seven were either Judges, non-profit workers or in Government. Of note, there wasn’t more than one woman at any law firm chosen that I saw.  Why is that important?

Well, these publications make money by getting these big law firms to take out ads to congratulate the people in their firm who get chosen. By my count, there were 23 lawyer ads offering congrats.  While there is no requirement that an ad be bought for a woman to be selected, these large law firms have the budget to do so and seem to do so on a regular basis when other awards are made.

So while it does appear that most of the women on this list are great, are they the “top 50?” Of course not. It was a second annual list and unlike rankings for something like basketball recruits, the list changed completely. And of course there are amazing attorneys at small law firms and more than one “top” attorney at big firms like the one my classmate is a partner at.

Similar things happen with 40 under 40 lists and not just in law, but in other industries.   It’s not that bad people are chosen, it’s that it’s important for the public to know that these awards are money makers and nothing official.  In other words, don’t use it as a reason to hire an attorney or not hire one.

Bonus story. Years ago I was “awarded” as a top attorney from some company I’d never heard of. To make it official I had to order their plaque which cost around $100.  I thanked them for the honor, but said I didn’t want a plaque.  Well, since I wouldn’t pay for the plaque I was no longer on their list.  Most award companies aren’t that brazen, but that one certainly was and gave me a good chuckle.