I’m coming to see all of the surveys and rankings as just notches on the bed post. Look closely at the methodology, the actual numbers, what they choose to use and not use, and you have to wonder: WHY, OH WHY? I’m sure it has nothing to do with advertising.

American Lawyer Magazine, after the AmLaw 100 and AmLaw 200 issues, just released their “A-List” issue. Not to take anything away from the firms on the list, but what does this really mean? Are A-List firms better places to work? Are the clients more satisfied or loyal? Are the associates producing better work product? Oh, and lets not forget about the “staff.” Did they get raises this year?

On the surface, the A-List should be great places to work (Associate Satisfaction Ranks – check); better corporate citizens (Pro Bono Ranks – check); promoting diversity (Diversity Ranks – check); and making the partners rich (Revenue Per Lawyer Ranks – check).

While I am no Mark Greene or Ann Lee Gibson, taking a peek behind the methodology just raises more questions for me.

To come up with the A-List score, we double the points for both revenue per lawyer and pro bono and add them to the scores from the associate satisfaction and diversity surveys. Then we rank the firms by their total scores. The top 20 form the A-List.

I’m not sure why, but for the A-List the revenue and pro bono ranks are twice as valuable as associate satisfaction and diversity? Why is that? And what about all the incomplete surveys? And, are 10 responses enough to reach a valid conclusion on anything?

“Last year 164 firms had at least ten responses, which qualified those firms for a national ranking. The top-ranked firm gets a score of 200, and the bottom-ranked gets a score of 37 when we calculated the numbers,” p. 99, American Lawyer Magazine, July 2008.

As for revenue per lawyer, is this an indication of a more profitable or better run firm? Not according to Ann Lee Gibson’s article “Revenue Per Equity Partner— a Useful Metric of Law Firm Financial Performance”:

This article posits that the two revenue metrics used most often to describe law firms’ financial performance— gross revenue and revenue per lawyer—are not the only and perhaps not even the best revenue metrics to describe law firms’ operational and financial performance.


The metric “revenue per equity partner” offers more useful and predictive information about a firm’s ability to produce revenue that actually winds up on the bottom line in partner profits.

I’m no math wizard, but the stats just aren’t adding up for me.