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Ever since the Committee on Attorney Advertising issued its much-maligned Opinion 39 condemning Super Lawyersand Best Lawyers in America- while inexplicably giving Martindale-Hubbell a pass – the New Jersey legal community has been abuzz about the legitimacy of these particular rating services. In the coming months, the New Jersey Supreme Court will make the legal judgment whether New Jersey ethics rules prohibit a lawyer from truthfully advertising that he has been selected for inclusion in these listings, after the conclusion of a hearing now underway before a special master appointed by the Court – former Appellate Division Judge Robert Fall. In that hearing, we will present live testimony explaining the Super Lawyersselection process. We explain the selection process in each edition of our magazines (including New Jersey Super Lawyers), and on our Web site, www.superlawyers.com . As these widely available resources explain, we have a rigorous selection process that includes statewide balloting, research and rating of the background and credentials of each candidate and peer review by experts in each practice area. No other lawyer listing or ranking service goes through all these steps. We are turning over mountains of material to the Committee on Attorney Advertising, which will confirm that our process is exactly what we say it is. We have even voluntarily agreed to supply the committee, under seal, with a spreadsheet showing how the score for each lawyer was generated (without any names or identifying information), so that it can confirm that ad sales have no impact on the selection process. Had the committee ever contacted us, or even bothered to review our publication or our Web site, we would undoubtedly not be in this mess at all. Indeed, each of the state-bar or disciplinary authorities that have completed inquiries into our selection process has ultimately been satisfied that our process is legitimate, and our product valuable to consumers. New Jersey is the clear outlier. This is why we were surprised when this very newspaper published an editorial a few months ago that appeared to give credence to the misconceptions about Super Lawyersthat some New Jersey lawyers have [ Super Lawyers, Odd Actions, April 16]. It relied on two pieces of anecdotal evidence about lawyers’ dealings with Super Lawyers- both of which turned out to be utterly false. This newspaper retracted its earlier statement within a few short days after we showed them our actual communications with the lawyers in question [ Correction, May 7]: The law firm whose partners mysteriously disappeared from one year to the next was a result of the firm’s request, not its decision not to advertise. The lawyer who left a large firm for a smaller one was dropped from the list after she did not send in her data-verification form (which each selected lawyer must complete, but her former firm would not provide her new contact information), not based on any bias against small-firm lawyers. This is not an isolated event. Spurred in part by Opinion 39, there is a lot of misinformation and innuendo out there about our process. Whenever anyone has cited any concrete information challenging the legitimacy of our process, we have roundly rebutted the allegation with concrete facts showing the allegation to be false – just as we did with the New Jersey Law Journal. Our selection process is more than merely legitimate: As Global Strategy Group, a nationally renowned research firm, has opined, the Super Lawyersselection process is “as scientific and objective as any such model of a complex system could be.” Multi-Step Selection Process This endorsement was based upon a painstaking analysis of the Super Lawyers’multi-step selection process. First, we collect huge numbers of nominationsby reaching out to virtually every lawyer in New Jersey who has been practicing for at least five years. Each recipient is asked to nominate the best lawyers he or she has personallyobserved in action, based on “first-hand knowledge, rather than reputation.” To supplement the balloting, we also conduct a “star search” by reviewing media outlets and other sources to identify highly talented attorneys with less visible practices who might have been missed during the balloting process, and who are then added to the candidate pool. Second, we conduct independent researchon every candidate, searching for evidence of peer recognition and professional achievement, and scoring every candidate based on 12 criteria. Third, the candidates are then scored by a Blue Ribbon Panelmade up of those practitioners who receive the highest scores in their areas of practice. Fourth, the scores from each of the first three phases are weighted and aggregated to yield a final score. Candidates are grouped according to the size of their firms to ensure an appropriate balance among larger firms, smaller firms and solo practitioners, and the top lawyers in each law-firm-size category are placed on the Super Lawyerslist, arranged in more than 50 practice areas. All this means that if someone tells you that you can get onto a Super Lawyerslist simply by buying advertising, that person is dead wrong. We have a clear division of labor between our research and advertising departments, and advertising is sold after the selection process for a particular year’s list is complete. Not only don’t we allow anyone to buy their way onto the list but we have sophisticated mechanisms in place to detect any other behavior designed to manipulate our system. These include “block-voting” (where a group of lawyers agrees to vote for one another to increase their ballot scores), “back scratching” (where one or some lawyers vote for others in exchange for reciprocal votes) or “lobbying” for votes. In addition, we ensure that our selection process does not devolve into a mere popularity contest by looking closely at – and sometimes eliminating – candidates whose high ballot scores are not matched by equally impressive research scores and/or marks from our blue-ribbon panel. Of course, no lawyer-rating list – or doctor-rating list or college-rating list – is beyond reasonable dispute. Someone else can always come up with a different list of the top 5 percent of lawyers in New Jersey. That list would overlap to a large extent with our list, but not completely. Thus, Martindale-Hubbell, Best Lawyers, and the rest of our competitors offer consumers valuable information. We believe that New Jerseyans benefit from more rather than less information in choosing lawyers. The U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that the First Amendment requires nothing less. In a series of opinions, the High Court has held that state ethics rules may not limit the truthful information lawyers convey to their clients unless the information is “actually or inherently misleading,” Ibanez v. Fla. Dep’t of Bus. & Prof’l Regulation, 512 U.S. 136, 145 (1994), and has expressly condoned “certification[s] . . . by bona fide organizations,” Peel v. Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Comm’n, 496 U.S. 91, 110 (1990); see also Mason v. Florida Bar, 208 F. 3d 952, 956 (11th Cir. 2000) (applying Peelto lawyer-rating services). For these reasons, we are confident that Opinion 39 will ultimately be overturned. In the meantime, if anyone – including the editors of this newspaper – wants to find out more about the Super Lawyersmagazines or our selection process, just ask us. If the information is not already on www.superlawyers.com , or the new Web site we created when Opinion 39 came out, www.superlawyersfacts.com , we will be happy to oblige. The author is the publisher ofSuper Lawyers (r) magazines.

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