Different fields have different metrics that are used among equals to rate themselves. For example, amongst scientists, the h-index (a researcher has h-index = x if he has at least x peer reviewed articles with at least x citations), among fund managers it is capital under management.

What metrics are most useful for lawyers?

  • 1
    Is it possible to expand on what the metric(s) would be used for? Is it to compare lawyers to see who you should hire if you need one? 'What metrics are most useful for lawyers' suggests the metric is for lawyers to use to compare their performance against each other (e.g. to compare academic or financial performance).
    – stevec
    Apr 3, 2022 at 3:03
  • Some ideas (from a non-lawyer). If you want to measure profitability of a lawyer: average billable hours per week and billable rate ($100/hr, $250/hr etc). If you want to measure the lawyer's attempts to build new client relationships you could measure the number of new clients ('leads') they speak to each week.
    – stevec
    Apr 3, 2022 at 3:06
  • 4
    You'll need a shystometer.
    – Richard
    Apr 3, 2022 at 7:42
  • 1
    This is surely to some extent dependent on location; for example, in the UK the status of QC is intended to serve this sort of purpose when it comes to barristers (and I know there are other countries with similar systems).
    – dbmag9
    Apr 3, 2022 at 19:21
  • In what country/state/province?
    – BruceWayne
    Apr 3, 2022 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


There are no really truly "objective" metrics by which lawyers are ranked.

One service that rates lawyers is Martindale-Hubbell (which is primarily a directory of lawyers) and makes its ratings into several broad categories based upon a determination of a lawyer's professional reputations among lawyers reached by surveying lawyers who have had dealings with the lawyer in question. Its rating system is as follows:

Historically the Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ system utilized an “A - B - C” scale to estimate the legal ability and ethical standards of an attorney. To qualify for an “A” rating an attorney had to be reported as “Very High” in their legal ability and had been practicing for at least 10 years, a “B” rating meant an attorney was rated “High” and had to be practicing for at least 5 years, and a “C” rating meant that the attorney was rated “fair” with no limitations on how long they were practicing. A second rating was also given to go along with the “A - B - C” rating and that was a “V,” meaning that the attorney's peers stated they had "Very High" ethical standards. Over the years this transitioned to “AV”, “BV”, and “CV” ratings - with an “AV” rating meaning that the attorney had reached the highest of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.

Today, Martindale-Hubbell conducts a thorough review of attorneys who wish to receive a Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™, through a secure online peer review survey where a lawyer’s ethical standards and legal ability in a specific area of practice is assessed by their peers. Once the review process is completed an attorney may receive 1 of the following Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™:

AV Preeminent®: The highest peer rating standard. This is given to attorneys who are ranked at the highest level of professional excellence for their legal expertise, communication skills, and ethical standards by their peers.

Distinguished: An excellent rating for an attorney who has some experience and is widely respected by their peers for their professional achievement and ethical standards.

Notable: A rating given to a lawyer who has been recognized by a large number of their peers for their strong ethical standards

Another, much newer, service that rates lawyers is Avvo. It explains its rating method this way:

How does Avvo calculate the Avvo Rating?

We calculate the rating based on public data we may have collected on each attorney and the information they have provided in their profile. The public data we collect comes from a variety of sources, including public records (state bar associations, regulatory agencies, and court records) and other published sources on the internet. This information, however, is not exhaustive, and might not include additional relevant information that could increase an attorney’s rating. Attorneys know about their own experience and have the option to add this information to their profiles – by either claiming their profile and adding information, or contacting Avvo Customer Care to provide additional information – and those details will often increase an attorney’s rating.

Avvo’s mathematical module considers and weights the information collected and provided to calculate a numerical rating, ranging from 1 to 10. Within the model, we take into account factors that consumers and legal professionals believe are relevant to an attorney’s qualifications, including experience, professional achievements, and disciplinary sanctions.

Other factors are sometimes use to rate lawyers. These include:

  • The prestige of one's law school (particularly its U.S. News and World Report Law School Ranking), the honors one received in law school (e.g. magna cum laude recognition or specific awards), and whether one was an editor on the principle law review of the law school, a secondary law review of the law school, or did not have law review experience (law review membership is typically based upon first year GPA sometimes together with an application essay). One's undergraduate degree granting institution's prestige is also a factor although much more minor.

  • Whether one was a judicial clerk after graduating from law school, and if so, with whom. The greatest prestige attaches to lawyers who served as a law clerk for a famous U.S. court of appeals judge followed by serving as a clerk for a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Other clerkships are less prestigious, generally in line with how important the judge is in the legal system.

  • The prestige of the firm or other employer of the lawyer for which the lawyer has worked. Large law firms, specialty law firms with an elite practice (such as only handling U.S. Supreme Court litigation, or only doing intellectual property cases), and certain governments and non-profits (e.g. the ACLU or the Solicitor-General's office), tend to be more prestigious.

  • Having clients who are important enhances prestige.

  • Rightly or wrongly, prestige is evaluated based upon the hourly rate charged by an attorney in arms-length hourly fee agreements.

  • An involvement of a lawyer high profile or otherwise notable legal cases or business transactions enhances prestige.

  • Handling higher stakes litigation (more serious crimes in criminal practice, higher dollar amounts in controversy in civil litigation, bigger dollar transactions in business transactions, high value estates in probate practice) enhances prestige, as does working in more sophisticated or intellectually challenging specialties.

  • Achieving exceptional outcomes in particular cases relative to typical outcomes, when this is known to others, enhances prestige.

  • Law related legal publications enhance prestige.

  • A history of professional license discipline, court sanctions, and/or unsuccessful outcomes in malpractice lawsuits usually reduces prestige.

  • Years of experience as a practicing lawyer enhances prestige.

  • Status as an owner or co-owner of a law practice enhances prestige.

  • More prestigious lawyers typically spend a larger share of their time interacting with others outside their law firms, especially in negotiation settings.

Also, keep in mind that while the U.S. with some narrow exceptions, doesn't license lawyers based upon particular specialties, almost all lawyers specialize to some extent. A law who is well qualified in their specialty is not necessarily well qualified outside areas where they have extensive relevant experience.

  • Thanks for this answer, the other one gave an important caveat but this one gives more relevant information towards answering the question. In the quote, "Avvo’s mathematical module" is a mistake and should be either "Avvo’s mathematical model" or "Avvo’s mathematical [model]". I took me a minute to work out what it meant.
    – Jojo
    Apr 2, 2022 at 7:46
  • #Joe I cut and pasted from Avvo's website. The error was in the original when I did so (which may have subsequently been corrected there, I haven't checked).
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 22, 2022 at 22:23

There is considerable doubt as to the value of both h-index and amount of capital, under management as indices of the quality or competence of a professional. The h-index says more about the frequency of publication than it does about the real significance of those publications.{1} The amount of capitol under management says more about the quality of the fund's advertising than anything else. The rate of return, compared with other funds in the same area and with similar goal is perhaps more useful.

In any case, there is no similar objective or even semi-objective measure for a lawyer that I know of. For a litigator, the ratio of wins to losses has some value, but some cases are much easier to win than others, and a lawyer that takes only easy cases may not have a high reputation. Beyond that, the collective view of the lawyer's peers has value, but is quite subjective and not easy to measure.


{1} See the essay "Tolkien's Academic Reputation Now" by Tom Shippey, collected in Shippey's Roots and Branches, for a case where a relatively low h-index would be found for a person with a very high continuing academic reputation is spite of a comparatively small lifetime academic output. There are other cases where a single influential publication effectively cements a scientific reputation. Crick and Watson's paper revealing the structure of DNA is an example.


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