I might be kicking myself for this post later on in my career, but here it is: I am so offended by this panel at ALM Event’s CMO conference:

League Table Recognition: How to jump 10 spots on the AmLaw 100
One thing that brings out the competitive nature of CMOs and marketers everywhere is the desire to score high on the numerous law firm rankings that are published. Being named No. 1 as a corporate dealmaker or litigation firm is a huge marketing coup. On the other hand, marketers must grind through the laborious chore of compiling information for directories, some of which are created simply to sell advertising. Our panelists will identify which league tables really count and how to score high.

I have good friends and colleagues for whom I have the utmost respect speaking at this conference. They are the best of the best. I am just offended that, in my opinion, this panel 1) reduces my role as a thought leader at my firm to a competition to see who can be “named No. 1;” 2) minimizes the role of a senior member of the firm’s executive team as a task oriented position, and not a strategic one; and, 3) supports an activity that we all know will not increase the firm’s revenue.

I admit it. A ranking has the potential to enhance a firm’s reputation (amongst it’s peers anyway), but let’s also admit that they aren’t going to bring in new work (and I know top notch clients are “on to it.” They ignore it or see it as an ego trip – which it really is.).

And where is the “huge marketing coup” in league tables? Most league tables are based on number of deals or dollars. You’re just tracking and filling out paperwork. I have had colleagues who are paid good 6-figure salaries to spend their days tracking and filling out these forms. How relevant do you think those jobs are in a down economy?

But, most of all, I am offended by the sub-header: “How to jump 10 spots on the AmLaw 100.” Uggghhhh. I’ll save you the money. Merge. There you go. The AmLaw 100 rankings are based on revenue. That’s it. Mystery solved. Merge.

I liken the AmLaw 100 to crack for lawyers. I hang the posters on my office wall to entice unsuspecting attorneys into my office where I can then ensnarl them long enough to discuss some business development activity. It’s like a candy jar but without the calories.

The AmLaw 100 is also great fodder for gossip and innuendo. Have you ever been at a firm which has dropped in the rankings? I have. Lots of chatter behind closed doors going on in the office that day. And, can you imagine what would happen if Skadden lost their No. 1 position? The blogosphere would have a field day.

Unfortunately most lawyers don’t balance the AmLaw 100 rankings with the reality of getting there. This is especially true for 1st years. They just look at the numbers. Maybe that’s why “The larger law firms are reported to be losing 30, 40, 50 percent of associates after three to four years.”

I had a partner at a prior firm who would come into my office to check the rankings on a regular basis. He’d get off the phone with an old law school buddy who went to Kirkland & Ellis, or Simpson Thatcher, or darn it, that big-bad daddy, Skadden. He’d come in, check the numbers, and then compare them to what our firm’s numbers were that year.

I’d have to talk him down from the ledge:

“Yes, I know, but how many hours did you bill last year? My friend over at AmLaw 12 told me that his PARTNERS billed 2400 hours last year.”

“Yes, I know, but did your buddy get to go to Africa for two weeks this summer, with no cell-phone or BlackBerry?”

“Yes, I know, but what marriage is your buddy on??”

“I know, but when was the last time your buddy actually knew the client he was working for?”

So, call me Pollyanish, but I really believe that there has to be more value in being a lawyer. I truly believe that it can and should be about the quality of professional life and the work done for clients vs. being just a number.