The AmLaw rankings have been with us for over thirty years, and despite the evergreen complaints about their design, purpose, impact, and reliability, to our knowledge no one has ever tried to systematically ask AmLaw firms themselves whether and to what extent they actually comply in reporting accurate data.  We think it’s time to take a look.

We believe this is a vital issue for the industry, and we hope you would agree.  Love them or loathe them, the AmLaw rankings are the Fortune 500 of Law Land: The #1 listing of record, without comparable peer.

To look into this, we’ve created a very short questionnaire, available here, which invites you to characterize your firm’s level of participation in AmLaw’s annual survey. Please note:

  • It’s 100% anonymous. No fingerprints, no naming names.
  • It will take you three to five minutes to complete.
  • If you’re not the right person at your firm to answer our questions, please forward it to those who are. While you’re at it, forward it to colleagues in other firms who might be interested.  The more responses we can gather, the more solid our data will be.
  • We’re highly confident you’ll enjoy it. But/and most important:
  • We won’t learn much without you (or your firm) participating. We can’t do this alone; we need your help.

Now, a few additional words about why we’re doing this.

First and foremost, we think the industry deserves more transparency about what goes into the AmLaw rankings and how the numbers are arrived at:  In short, what’s really behind them?  For years, I have proposed various–trivially easy–ways the rankings could be more informative about where the numbers came from.

One example: How about just putting a  *  next to firms that did not report?  This small clarification would go far in presenting the numbers with greater clarity as to their source and allow more informed reading of them–without requiring one iota of work or analysis on ALM’s part.  Seems to us a simple enhancement.

A second important reason:  Back in May of this year, we published a column called De-Listing, which questioned what I called the “epistemological underpinnings” of rankings such as the AmLaw 100/200 and the Global 50/100, which try to be both comprehensive and heterogeneous.  We’re not going to go into that here; I’d like to believe the column speaks for itself.

But what happened next is very relevant to today: Bloomberg Law did a video interview with Bruce on the topic, and a few weeks later taped Kim Kleman, editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer, in response.  Kim came out strongly in favor of transparency:

“[The AmLaw rankings] are at the very core of what we do; it’s the only publicly accessible analytics of its kind. … Without rankings we’d go back to the days when it was all smoke and mirrors. …

Law is a business, a very important business, a huge business.  As journalists, we believe in transparency; these firms have incredible power and we believe they become better…when this kind of information is out there in the open.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

On to the survey!  And don’t worry:

  • If you’re not an AmLaw listed firm, no problem; that’s the first question we ask, and we still let you voice your opinion on other issues besides your own firm’s reporting compliance;
  • If you’re not the right person in your firm to respond to this survey, please forward it along to someone better suited.  As I said, the more firms who participate the more we’ll learn.
  • If you’d like to share this with someone in another firm, please feel free.
  • If you’d prefer to share your thoughts with us outside the survey, please shoot me an email or pick up the phone: +1.212.866.4800

Thanks in advance.  Let’s try to learn something together. for the sake of our firms and the industry as a whole.

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