Best Law Firms® Research Explained

Best Law Firms® rankings are annually produced awards recognizing the top law firms across the United States. We are here to offer insight into the submission process for all eligible firms.

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Rebecca Blackwell

February 2, 2023 12:00 PM

Rankings by Best Law Firms® are some of the most trusted nationwide classifications available for law firms. Firms awarded in Best Law Firms are identified for their professional excellence with consistently positive feedback from clients and peers. Only 4% of firms in the United States are considered for a Best Law Firms ranking, highlighting each award’s prestige.

A standing in Best Law Firms represents top rated law firms with practices and lawyers who have garnered years of knowledge, expertise and professionalism. Consumers know that reputations precede themselves amongst those ranked by Best Law Firms.

It’s important to note what rankings are to understand why they are important and what they mean to firms and consumers alike.

What are Best Law Firms® Rankings?

The Best Law Firms rankings are rankings of firm practice areas awarded to eligible firms each year. Best Law Firms rankings are awarded both nationally across the United States and within 188 metropolitan areas nationwide. There are 75 practice areas in which firms may be ranked on a national level and as many as 127 practice areas represented in the metropolitan rankings. Rankings are earned through participation in the submission process, which usually begins in the winter and ends in the spring. The timelines are posted each year.

Who can be considered for a Best Law Firms® ranking?

Eligibility is derived from having at least one lawyer recognized in the current edition of The Best Lawyers in America® in a Best Law Firms practice area. Firms that meet this requirement are invited to participate in the submission process.

Note: Firms with lawyers recognized only in Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch® in America are not eligible for consideration in Best Law Firms.

What does the submission process include?

The submission process for Best Law Firms includes two key components: Client/Professional Reference submissions and the Law Firm Survey.

Additionally, on individual Best Lawyers ballots, lawyers also cast votes and are asked to consider expertise, responsiveness, whether they would refer a matter to a firm and whether they consider a firm a worthy competitor.

What are client and professional reference submissions, and why do they matter?

Eligible firms are encouraged to submit the names, emails and practice area associations of clients they have represented and professionals with whom they have worked to provide feedback on the firm’s work in a particular area of the past year. Professional references can be judges, lawyers from other firms, opposing counsel and practice area professionals (doctors, real estate agents) who have worked with the firm and can attest to the firm’s strengths. Due to the nature of a case, we understand that sharing client information is not always feasible, which is why we also welcome professional experts as references.

We suggest submitting at least three references in each eligible practice area, but there is no limit and firms are invited to submit as many names as they’d like. The more names we receive, the more data we can collect to put toward the firm’s overall scores. Client and professional references can be:

  • Currently engaged by the firm or former clients
  • Submitted multiple years (for recurring business clients)
  • Submitted for all specialties with which the client has experience at the firm

Once firms have submitted their client/professional references, we send out custom surveys to each contact. Clients know which firm submitted them and for which practice area(s). The surveys are short and ask each reference to rank the firm on a scale from 1-5 in six categories of expertise and experience. The feedback is compiled and added to the firm’s overall score.

Client and Reference submissions are due on March 31, 2023, and may be submitted through a firm account.

What is the law firm survey, and why is it important?

Eligible firms are invited to fill out an annual firmographic law firm survey, also accessible through their firm account on The survey gives us important demographic and marketing information regarding the firm’s work over the past year. Participation in the law firm survey also adds to a firm’s overall score. Firms are asked to fill in areas that apply to their scope and work. There is no penalty for not completing the entire survey. Additionally, there are two versions of the survey based on firm size, as we recognize that questions pertaining to a solo practitioner or small boutique can be quite different from questions posed to large firms.

These surveys allow law firms to provide us with general demographic and background information on the law firm and attorneys, as well as other data that speaks to the strengths of a law firm’s practice areas.

Law Firm Surveys are due on May 5, 2023.

Why should I complete my Best Law Firms research submission packet?

Each component of the packet accumulates data to determine the final Best Law Firms rankings. As mentioned above, the law firm surveys are participation based.

Client/professional reference survey data is our most important component when scoring firms. These references give us the most accurate view of a firm’s work through the perspective of clients and professionals, and the data we receive is the most influential element in the scoring process. Firms are very strongly encouraged to submit clients and/or references.

All qualitative and quantitative data from the submission packet is combined into an overall score for each firm. The data is then compared to other firms within the same metropolitan area and at a national level. Because firms are often separated by small or insignificant differences in overall score, we use a tier system rather than ranking firms sequentially.

Participation in the submission packets gives firms the strongest chance to increase their scores and, consequently, their rankings among Best Law Firms, making participation the most vital step in the overall process.

How do I complete my submission packet?

Submission packets for the 2024 edition of Best Law Firms are open from January 19 – May 5, 2023.

Eligible firms were sent their submission packets by email on January 19th. Firms can also log on to their Best Lawyers Firm Accounts to access reference submissions and law firm surveys anytime. For assistance with your submission packet or accessing your firm account, please contact

What can I do to help my firm become ranked?

The submission process is a firm's most important asset in earning a tiered ranking. Filling out the law firm survey by the deadline date and submitting clients and references will help firms boost your firm’s scores, thus assisting in efforts to become ranked. Rankings in Best Law Firms are among the top honors a law firm can receive, and we are delighted to provide firms the opportunity to be partners in our research process.

For questions about the process or assistance with submissions, please contact our Best Law Firms research team at

Additional Resources

Best Law Firms® Timeline – click here to access the full 2024 Best Law Firms timeline, along with PDF available for download and print.

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