It’s time we get real about this: lawyers need to stop listing AV Preeminent or BV Distinguished on their websites.

No one cares.

Remember Why You Have a Website

Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. Everything you put on your website needs to do its part to help prospective clients figure out whether you are the lawyer they should hire.

Listing your Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings will not accomplish this.1

Peer Review Ratings Don’t Help Potential Clients

Before you entered the legal field, did you know Martindale-Hubbell ratings existed? If yes, did you understand what they meant? Most likely not. Therefore, you cannot expect a potential client to understand what that rating means. Nor should you expect that BV Distinguished would persuade a client to work with you.

Martindale-Hubbell peer ratings are not the only ratings that fit this description. There are numerous peer-review awards and memberships that lawyers treasure, but none of them make much of an impact on a prospective client’s decision. These include:

To lawyers, these ratings are a mark of success achieved through hard work and a dedication to the practice of law. To the average person (read: client), they are meaningless.

How to Use Peer Ratings Effectively

Most lawyers use their ratings to market their services in the hope that the ratings will help draw in new clients. But using peer reviews nobody has heard of is not helpful.

If you insist on using your ratings, be smart about it. Make sure you accurately represent your peer ratings by explaining what each award means and why it is important that your clients know about them. If you are unsure how to do this, consider answering these questions on your website or other marketing materials:

  • Where do the reviews come from?
  • Which aspects of your practice or actions are considered?
  • Who decides on the final rating or award?
  • How does this review or award or membership translate into your daily practice?

Not All Peer Reviews Are Bad

I know from experience that I trust and value recommendations coming from lawyers I already know and respect. But there is a big difference between a word-of-mouth referral and a compilation of reviews from strangers.

Online reviews and recommendations can have great impact, as long as those reviews come from someone other than Anonymous. If you value peer reviews and believe they benefit potential clients, use tools such as the recommendation feature on LinkedIn. Let people see who you support — and hope they return the favor. This transparency can go a long way in establishing credibility and trust — two key traits that prospective clients search for in a lawyer.

Client Ratings May Be the Better Choice

There is a slew of websites that provide the opportunity to read and write reviews and recommendations for services rendered, including general review sites such as Google and Yelp, and lawyer-specific sites like Avvo. These reviews can make strong connections with prospective clients, as the reviews come from their peers — not yours.

You can take advantage of the strength of these reviews by highlighting client-based reviews on your site. Include a testimonials page where you publish notes of thanks from previous clients. Also include recognition that is based on client reviews instead of peer reviews. These can include your:

Of course, you may want to consider whether your past clients can properly rate your skills as a lawyer. Make sure that, if you use client reviews in your marketing, you are highlighting those reviews that get at the heart of who you are and how you practice. Reviews that fit this description can go a long way in giving prospective clients an understanding of what kind of lawyer you would be for them.

Remember to Always Focus on Your Clients

Your goal on your website is to provide clear reasons as to why a client should choose you over Joe Smith, an attorney who works in your practice area and serves the same geographic location you do. And in today’s virtual marketplace, you need to share those reasons quickly and succinctly, or else you risk losing your leads. You cannot afford to waste value time and space on your website to things that are essentially meaningless to your client base. And, to be clear, listing peer reviews is just that — a waste.

Keep this in mind if you choose to tout peer-based honors, awards, and memberships on your website. If you are going to use one or more awards, make sure you find smart ways to translate those awards into engaging messages that make real connections with your prospective clients. Because in the end, everything you do on your website is for them, not you.

Featured image: “Business concept image of a hand holding marker and write I don’t care isolated on white” from Shutterstock.

  1. One caveat: I’ve written this post with a specific lawyer in mind — the lawyer whose main clientele is the general public. If your audience includes general counsel or other lawyers, you may find the content that follows less relevant to your practice. 


  1. OtherwiseIAgree says:

    AVVO rating is easily manipulated and unaffected by client reviews.

    • Avvo’s rating service, in my opinion is really a rating of your ability to fill out your social profile on their website. By playing their game, you give them power, and if you don’t play the Avvo, directory or rating game right now. You are likely harming your firm due to Google’s current premium value placed on legal directory websites. Don’t forget even a goat can win the Avvo game.

      • Yes, the AVVO rating does appear to be easily manipulated, but at least there are client reviews there that prospective clients can read. That’s more than other rating services offer, which is why I like it.

        • Gregory Lorincz says:

          Martindale / have client reviews and have had them for some time.

          The article overstates its case and the author appears misinformed.

          • Interesting thread…

            I feel that it has value and would myself display a favorable “Peer Rating”. What could it hurt?

            • Sam Glover says:

              What would it hurt? Probably nothing. What would it help? Same.

              Then again, the more meaningless stuff on your website, the more likely it is that someone will leave before they get a chance to see the stuff that would have convinced them to contact you. Will one meaningless rating do it? Probably not. I don’t want to overstate it. But if it probably isn’t going to make a difference for anyone, why would you put it on your website?

  2. SuperSamB says:

    I believe the M-H ratings to be primarily a form of good old boy group self-promotion, and believe the “super lawyers” lists to be essentially the same thing. I put no stock in them.

    I have dealt with AV rated attorneys who are very good, but I have dealt with a larger number who are average at best. Similarly, I have dealt with both good and bad “super” lawyers (although I admit my sample size here is smaller than my M-H sample size). The common theme appears to be well-connected attorneys who scratch each other’s backs in the ratings game. In my experience,the ratings, particularly M-H, are useless.

    However I think including selection to a super lawyer list in their marketing helps those attorneys, which frustrates me even more. The public may not understand where the list came from, but the public, particularly those who are inexperienced or unsophisticated, is familiar with lists, and includes that information in their decision making. Because of the odd nature of the M-H rating nomenclature, I believe M-H ratings are less effective in marketing to the public.

    • Sam, please also accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you–I definitely did not expect my recovery to take so long!

      Your comment on nomenclature hits the nail on the head. The words used make no sense to the uninitiated — so why use them? Especially if you can’t or won’t explain what it means? It’s a waste of time and space on valuable real estate in marketing materials.

  3. I have to agree with you on the fact that attorneys should always focus on their clients. However, when it comes to the value of Martindale AV ratings, and other rating services. The questions should be; do clients care about an attorney’s ratings?

    If yes, it should be displayed and promoted despite it’s lack of actual value, it still has perceived value. In other news, that perceived value is being stolen by AVVO.

    With that said, I recommend attorneys use their SuperLawyers, Avvo Rating, Martindale, and other “rating agencies” logos and awards as trust signals. These trust signals help potential clients who are choosing an attorney make easy differentiation between attorneys with similar credentials.

    Within most consumer focused law practices there is low perceived differentiation between lawyers. forty years ago that differentiation was most noticeable by judging an attorneys wardrobe, card stock, mahogany desk, and the size of his office downtown.

    Things have changed and consumers, (yes, law is a business) have become accustomed to everything being ranked and rated from universities to toasters.

    I personally don’t care about your Martindale AV Rating. However, when performing as your legal marketing consigliere I would advise you to use some trust signals to help potential clients retain your firm.

    This means displaying these signals on your website and in your office space. Trust signals improve retention rates for law firms and ignoring them in a competitive market, with unsophisticated consumers of legal services would be negligent.

    The only other target audience that also puts a lot of stock in “rating agencies” are other attorneys. Which also makes these symbols an important tool for referrals that may come without a prior relationship.

    Just my two cents.

    Happy Holidays,

    James Bellefeuille

    • James,

      First, let me apologize for the length of time it’s taken me to respond to you. I’ve been out on medical leave and am just now getting back in the swing of things.

      Okay, that said — I think you make some valid points here. Trust symbols can be a great eye-catcher when it comes to design and layout on a website. And yes, consumers look for ratings and testimonials to help them make decisions.

      I do believe that you should not have trust symbols on your site without any explanation. Perhaps this means building in the capacity for those symbols to link to a page that explains what each symbol means. This could give more credence to the symbols and help potential clients better understand what they’re looking at.

      And you’re spot-on with your comment about other attorneys. Hence my footnote at the end of my article. :)


    • Gregory Lorincz says:

      Agree. Peer ratings are a piece of the marketing puzzle. Neither the be all and end all, nor useless.

    • Took the words out of my mouth James, on point. Thank you.

  4. Patrick Sanders says:

    I disagree with the premise that Martindale peer review ratings don’t matter. No review process is perfect. However, Martindale has a process that is structured on objectivity and fairness. Peer reviews are randomly requested based on your geographical location and areas of practice. Further, you have the option of providing Martindale with your own nominations. There are a minimum number of review responses required so that a small group cannot make a determination as to any one attorney’s rating.

    I find educated and informed clients do look for this rating when seeking an attorney to represent them in a particular legal matter. Peers know us the best from their personal professional experience of us in the courtroom, at a deposition, or negotiating a settlement. A Martindale rating is not the only barometer of an attorney’s integrity and abilitity, but it is a reliable indicator.

  5. Like James mention in his previous post, The Martindale and similar ratings provide a considerably influential “trust signal” to potential clients. As a Digital Marketer for a Family Law firm I know that is very important and If anything, regardless if the client “knows what it means.” It looks prestigious and usually inclines them to click on the logo link which I think should be a standard measure when promoting such badge on your website. I have to admit thought that as an SEO ninja the Martindale network provides probably the most valuable seo back-links in the industry. If you have a respectable SEO effort going those will help out tremendously and in turn greatly improve your leads and thus client sign-ups. So regardless if “no one cares” or “they dont know what it means” a lawyer/law firm would do much better to have these distinguished markers one their site than to be without them.

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