New Orleans Magazine recently issued its list of Top Lawyers in the city, and naturally I bought a copy to scope out the selections (only available in the print version). It seems like almost every lawyer in the city is listed in there under some category or other. And that's my first complaint about the list: it's disorganized and impossible to use if you were really looking for a particular type of lawyer. For example, here are some categories that are pretty much the same:
- Admiralty and Maritime Defense;
- Admiralty and Maritime Law;
- Admiralty and Maritime Law and Litigation;
- Admiralty Law
- Admiralty, Maritime and Energy;
- Admiralty, Maritime and Energy – Wrongful Death, Personal Injury and Property Damage
- Admiralty – Injuries to Seaman, Offshore workers:
There are 39 categories under the A heading alone. Supposedly, New Orleans Magazine compiled the list by reference to Martindale Hubbell (don't get me started on how superficial and obsolete that ranking system is). But, Martindale doesn't have all of these categories. So where did New Orleans Magazine get them? Who knows. Probably a summer intern was tasked with this project.
My second complaint is really the more substantive one: lists like these in general interest magazines always are geared towards including as many names as possible. Why? Think about it. Or scroll up to the first sentence of this blog post. Even I (since I'm a lawyer) will fall prey to the tendency to buy the issue just to see who I recognize.
The more names in the article, the more people will buy copies to show their friends, family (and clients, of course) that they have been listed as a 'Top Lawyer.' New Orleans Magazine does the same thing for 'Top Doctors.' And you can be sure that's the same kind of scam.
So why do I say this is a scam? Well, in addition to being hopelessly disorganized, and thus of no use to the general public even if it were an accurate list of top lawyers, it's…well, not an accurate list of top lawyers. I know this because I know some really excellent lawyers who are not included in the list. And I spotted a couple of folks who are (in my learned opinion) manifestly incompetent at practicing law. I would never say who the incompetent ones are, because its not my job to judge my fellow lawyers and if I did it would just be my opinion and I don't think one opinion should be given much weight. Nor should opinions compiled in the way that Martindale compiles them.
I will tell you one lawyer that got left off the list (as far as I could tell). Townsend Myers is one of the best criminal lawyers in New Orleans. He has a niche practice area, handling state law misdemenors and felonies, as well as DUIs, traffic matters and municipal offenses. I list Townsend on my own firm website as a 'recommended lawyer' (along with a few other folks) because I know he's smart, works hard and is completely ethical. It's just my opinion, but it's not one I reach haphazardly or just to impress people. After 20 years of practicing law I know excellent lawyers when I see them, and I'm happy to let people know who those folks are.
For those of you who might say, I'm just disgruntled because I wasn't included in the list, you're totally wrong. I was included. But that doesn't mean I'm a 'top New Orleans lawyer.' It just means I was included on a silly list, a list created for some venal purpose that has nothing to do with helping people figure out who the good lawyers are.