Lists of law firms which do contain a judgment-freighted component (the AmLaw’s “A List,” a “Top” or “Hot” almost-anything) are forced to determine in advance just exactly what their measures of quality are, and which matter most. The US News rankings notoriously exclude price (tuition) from their school and university rankings. And now that you mention it, I’ve never seen a list of “Top” law firms that includes price as a metric, either.

This brings us back to the Super Rich and “everyone else.” Here are a few firms from each decile of the latest AmLaw 100. Ask yourself what firms in these groupings have in common (hint: not that much):

  • 1st decile: Latham, Kirkland, Jones Day
  • 2nd decile: Gibson Dunn, Morgan Lewis, Sullivan & Cromwell, Cleary, Greenberg Traurig, Reed Smith.And as we go up the deciles, the differences are even more patently obvious.
  • 6th decile: Vinson & Elkins, Cravath, Wilson Sonsini, Bryan Cave
  • 10th decile: Boies Schiller, Fox Rothschild, Fenwick, Baker Donelson


I’m not so naive, or idealistic, as to imagine that pointing out flaws in aggregate listings will deprive them of their guilty-pleasure appeal. US News has transformed itself from a Time/Newsweek also-ran to a List Factory, methodological and conceptual flaws notwithstanding. Some publications in Law Land seem to the innocent eye to be tending in the same direction, and without question it’s a strategy with demonstrable marketplace popularity.

All I’m asking is that you not mistake lists or rankings for intellectual analysis.

The Super Rich are playing a different game than everyone else. For them and their clients, price (cost) is asymptotically close to immaterial. The rest of us aren’t so fortunate.

Or maybe we have to make our own fortunes, on a non-intersecting plane of reality in this four-dimensional marketplace we are all playing in. One where price matters.

Either way, it’s high time to stop assuming lists can be comprehensive and heterogeneous.



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